The NFL is like many other professional sports leagues. It does well when it comes to hiring young Black leaders as professional athletes, but it still has a long way to go when it comes to hiring Black leaders in managerial positions of power. After more than six decades, Jason Wright became the first Black male President of an NFL organization. More recently, Jennifer King became the first Black woman to coach full-time in the league. However, there is still so much more ground to cover. While there were three Black general managers hired during the 2021 NFL Playoffs, only one Black candidate was hired for a head coaching position this season. Across the league, Black players make up nearly 70% of NFL rosters, but Black coaches fill less than 10% of the league's head coaching positions. Throughout the hiring process, fans and reporters called for teams to hire Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for a head coaching position. However, he was looked over multiple times for less qualified candidates. While Bieniemy is definitely worthy of the support he has received. He is not the only Black coach worthy of a head coaching position. Here are a few coaches that could be leading your favorite team in the near future.
Pep Hamilton is one of the fastest rising coaches in the National Football League. Over the course of more than a decade, Hamilton has made his way through the world of football as an innovative mind. Coaching everywhere from Howard University to the Indianapolis Colts, Hamilton has proven that he can adapt to any system or environment. Along his travels, he has coached the likes of Andrew Luck, Alex Smith and Jay Culter. More recently, he has found success as the Los Angeles Chargers Quarterbacks Coach. Working with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, Hamilton has guided the young star to Rookie of the Year consideration.
Leslie Frazier is a well-known figure within the NFL. Having coached in the league for more than 20 years, he has helped the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl. More recently, he helped the Buffalo Bills get to the AFC Championship where he fell short against Eric Bieniemy's Kansas City Chiefs. Frazier also has head coaching experience. In 2012, he led the Vikings to a 10-6 record and their first playoff appearance in three years.
Eric Bieniemy is the hottest head coaching prospect in the NFL. The New Orleans native kicked off his coaching career by leading the running back unit as his alma mater, the University of Colorado. In 2005, he made the jump to the pros where he coached Adrian Peterson and the running backs core of the Minnesota Vikings. In 2010, he was promoted to assistant head coach with the Vikings, but he left shortly thereafter to become the offensive coordinator with the University of Colorado. After three years, he returned to the NFL and he has not looked back yet. Bieniemy has spent the last seven years coaching the Kansas City Chiefs. He started off as the team's running backs coach, but quickly ascended to the franchise's offensive coordinator. In three seasons, the team has played in three AFC Championships and played in two Super Bowls.
Todd Bowles is currently gearing up to coach in his first Super Bowl as the defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Prior to landing in Tampa Bay, Bowles had a coaching path similar to that of Pep Hamilton. He started off his football coaching career with historically Black colleges and universities. From 1997 through 1999, Bowles worked as the defensive coordinator for Morehouse College and Grambling State University. After coaching in the south, Bowles jumped up north to become the secondary coach for the New York Jets. in 2000. Over the last two decades, he has coached for the Jets, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals. In 2014, he was named the AP NFL Assistant Coach of the Year. Along the way, he had an opportunity to become a head coach for the New York Jets. In 2015, he was able to lead the franchise to its only 10-win season over the last decade. Today, he is trying to lead the Buccaneers to their only Super Bowl over the last two decades.
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New Orleans Saints on January 17, Tom Brady did not turn to celebrate with his head coach, Bruce Arians, he celebrated with his offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich. Leftwich was introduced to the world as the quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he is now a successful mind in the NFL. He started his coaching career in Arizona where he worked as an interim offensive coordinator for the Cardinals. In 2019, he returned to Florida where he began working as the offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers. During his first year in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers ranked third in points scored and first in passing yards. This year, Tampa Bay has ranked third in points scored and second in passing touchdowns. Alongside Todd Bowles, he will look to bring home his first Super Bowl title as a coach on February 9.
Many football fans know Duce Staley from his playing days, but he is now one of the most promising coaching candidates in the NFL. Eight years after leaving the Eagles as a player, he returned as a coach. Over the last ten years, he has worked as a special teams quality control coach, running backs coach and assistant head coach. After helping the Pittsburgh Steelers win their first Super Bowl of the 21st Century as a player, he helped the Eagles win their first Super Bowl of the 21st Century as a coach in 2018. With a decade of experience under his belt, Staley is taking his talents to Detroit to works the Lions' running backs coach. Look for Staley to be a hot coaching prospect next offseason.
In recent years, NFL franchises have had no problem hiring bright offensive minds from the college ranks. Most recently, Matt Rhule and Kliff Kingsbury have landed head coaching jobs in the pros. Also, coaches like Lincoln Riley have earned consideration for top coaching positions. One name that is seldom mentioned is Tony Elliott. While NFL franchises jump at the opportunity to draft Trevor Lawrence in this year's NFL draft, his offensive coordinator is often forgotten. While at Clemson University, Elliott and Lawrence formed a powerful relationship that landed the Tigers in two College Football Playoff National Championships. Before Lawrence, Elliott worked with Houston Texans Quarterback DeShaun Watson as Clemson won its first national title in over three decades. Now, Elliott is looking to take the next step. He is currently being considered for the head coaching position at UCF. In a few years, he could be coaching your favorite NFL team.
Jim Caldwell is one of the more successful Black head coaches in recent memory. During his first two seasons as a head coach with the Indianapolis Colts, he went 24-8 and appeared in the playoffs twice. Three years after leaving the Colts, he led the Lions to three of their only four winning seasons since 2001. He also led the franchise to two of its only three playoff appearances since 1999. Over the course of his seven seasons as a winning coach, he won nearly 60% of his games and appeared in the playoffs 57% of the time. Caldwell currently works in an administrative role with the reincarnated XFL.
Marvin Lewis has won at every level football as a coach. In 1981, he won an FCS National Championship with Idaho State as a linebackers coach. Nearly 20 years later, he won a Super Bowl as a defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens and Ray Lewis. Shortly after winning a Super Bowl, Lewis earned a head coaching position with the Cincinnati Bengals. During his 16-year run with the Bengals, he led the franchise to 131 wins and four division titles. Of the franchise's 14 playoff appearances, Lewis had a hand in seven of them. Unfortunately, he was let go due to his inability to cash in on his regular-season success during the playoffs. He now works as an assistant coach for Arizona State University under former NFL coach Herm Edwards.
Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower wraps up this list of ten promising Black coaching prospects in the NFL. Hightower has spent 15 years coaching around the NFL. From the Houston Texans to the San Francisco 49ers, Hightower has coached wide receivers, defensive backs and special teams.
Photo Credit: Getty Images