By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — This offseason, seven of the NFL’s 32 teams — almost a quarter of the league — were in need of a new head coach. Thus far, five teams have filled the vacancy, and a sixth seems to be settling on a favorite.READ MORE: Woman Hit And Killed After Getting Out Of Friend's Car On I-93 In Medford
Yet among those five hires and the expected sixth, none of the new head coaches are Black. If that aspect were merely an odd coincidence, it likely wouldn’t stand out as a larger issue. However, the fact is that such a hiring cycle has become the norm, with less-experienced and less-qualified white coaches — Dan Campbell and Brandon Staley, for example — getting fast-tracked to head coaching jobs.
As such, the lack of diversity in such decisions is getting perhaps more attention than it has in recent years.
To be sure, diversity was not completely absent in some of the hires this offseason. New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh, who is of Lebanese descent, is the league’s first Muslim head coach. The Atlanta Falcons also hired Terry Fontenot and the Lions hired Brad Holmes as new GMs.
Last year’s hires were Matt Rhule, Kevin Stefanski, Mike McCarthy, Joe Judge and Ron Rivera, who is Latino. The year before, it was Kliff Kingsbury, Zac Taylor, Vic Fangio, Matt LaFleur, Bruce Arians, and Brian Flores, the lone Black hire. In 2018, it was Matt Nagy, Frank Reich, Jon Gruden and Mike Vrabel. Steve Wilks was hired by Arizona but was also fired after just one season. In 2017, Sean McDermott, Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan were hired as head coaches.
As a result of the latest hiring round, executive director Rod Graves from the Fritz Pollard Alliance released a statement.
“As we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Fritz Pollard Alliance recognizes that the struggle for equality is just as vigorous today as it was during the civil rights period,” Graves wrote. “People of color are still contending with issues of opportunity, unequal pay, and the presence of double standards in the workplace. Unfortunately, Black men and other men and women are too often challenged with these situations in the National Football League.”
The Fritz Pollard Alliance — named after the player and coach whom Bill Belichick honored during the 2020 season — has worked with the NFL executive office on matters of diversity throughout the league. Despite the good faith efforts, owners have continued to hire white coaches and executives in a league where people of color account for about 70 percent of the players.
“There are many outstanding Black men and other men and women of color in the NFL,” Graves wrote. “The pipeline is as strong as it has ever been. The issue is not in the sufficiency of numbers; the problem is in the limited number of leadership opportunities given. The disparity in opportunities is mind-boggling.”
For this particular hiring cycle, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy stands out as the most glaring omission from the hires thus far. In his three years as Kansas City’s OC, the Chiefs have led the league in yards twice, while ranking first, fifth and sixth in points scored and winning the Super Bowl a year ago.
ESPN’s Jason Reid wrote that Bieniemy’s lack of head coaching opportunities despite his success as an assistant is looking like a “cautionary tale.”READ MORE: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
“What’s most galling to Black coaches is the clear double standard present in the hiring process. While white assistants with little experience as coordinators or even position coaches are fast-tracked for the top-rung jobs, top-notch Black assistants often toil for years waiting for opportunities that never come, regardless of their role in contributing to an organization’s overall success,” Reid wrote for The Undefeated. “For Black assistants, the curious case of Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is just about becoming a cautionary tale.”
Reid noted that Bieniemy has been in charge of the NFL’s best offense for multiple years, and his accolades are undeniable. Meanwhile, Brandon Staley — who was hired by the Chargers over the weekend to replace the fired Anthony Lynn — had just one year of experience as a defensive coordinator, was coaching outside linebackers prior to that job, and was coaching the defense at John Carroll University and James Madison University prior to jumping to the NFL. Dan Campbell — who memorably served as interim coach of the Dolphins in 2015 — meanwhile is presumed to have gotten the Lions head coaching job despite never being a coordinator.
Bieniemy does have interviews scheduled with Houston and Philadelphia, but based on this tweet from the agency that represents him …
On MLK Day…the @NFL should be ashamed that…at this point with only 2 jobs remaining (one after Eagles hire JM) … zero black coach hires or even 2nd interviews. No coaches coaching in conference championship games are currently connected to either of these 2 jobs.
— Goal Line Football (@GoalineFootball) January 18, 2021
… it does not appear as though either team is intent on hiring him.
Outside of Bieniemy, Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo was named as an interview candidate for the Eagles last week, and Buccaneers defensive coordinator/former Jets head coach Todd Bowles interviewed as well. Eagles assistant coach Duce Staley also interviewed for the job. Still, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels — whose offense ranked 27th in the NFL last year — is seemingly considered to be the favorite.
In terms of representation and opportunity, the disparity is undeniable. It’s not necessarily a new issue, but it’s one the league has tried to address head-on. The results of that work are not yet showing.
There’s no clear, simple solution to the matter. A worthwhile change likely begins with more light shining on the problem, which in turn can lead to more people taking it seriously, which could then result in a change in the way that team owners have traditionally approached such hiring opportunities.MORE NEWS: 'It's Panic': CareWell Urgent Care Patients Concerned 2nd Vaccine Doses Will Be Canceled
For now, though, those involved directly with trying to improve the situation remain baffled and weary for efforts which have largely been proven to be Sisyphean.