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There’s always an excuse.
Jim Caldwell is too boring. Marvin Lewis can’t make in-game adjustments. Vance Joseph wasn’t aggressive enough. Hue Jackson is a fake. Steve Wilks just wasn’t the right fit.
Or … something.
Rather than fawning over someone’s offensive genius or playing Six Degrees of Sean McVay, let’s go ahead and call what’s going on in the NFL for what it really is. Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen certain coaches get jobs and interviews while others are given a once-over – maybe – and told better luck next time.
The only difference being the color of their skin.
How else to explain someone like Kliff Kingsbury, whose NFL experience is limited to carrying a clipboard a decade ago, being hired as the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach? Six weeks after he was fired at Texas Tech, no less. Or Adam Gase getting snapped up by the New York Jets after his sterling, sub-.500 record with the Miami Dolphins? Or Josh McDaniels getting calls after leaving the Indianapolis Colts in the lurch a year ago?
Or McVay already having a coaching tree after two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams while Anthony Lynn, whose job with the crosstown Chargers over the same span is equally impressive, not even having a shrub?
This is nothing against Kingsbury, Gase, McDaniels or any of the other white coaches who’ve gone after and gotten jobs. Opportunities were presented to them and they took advantage. As they should.
The NFL’s owners, however, are due every bit of criticism and condemnation coming their way.
Oh, the owners are fine having black and brown men on their teams. But God forbid they would hire someone of color to run those teams, be it on the field or in the front office. Whether that’s because of implicit bias or outright racism, I don’t know. But year after year, the problem persists, and it’s shameful.
“Kingsbury fits all the criteria to be a head coach in the NFL. He’s an offensive genius, he’s young and he’s white – and not necessarily in that order,” Dale Hansen, the sports anchor at WFAA in Dallas, said Wednesday night in a searing critique of the NFL’s whitewashed coaching carousel.
The NFL, like so many other businesses, is built on relationships. General managers and head coaches often hire people they’ve worked with. Or who played for them. Or have ties to others who did.
But too often, those hires end up being white men. Just look around. Of the 30 head coaches, only three – Lynn, Mike Tomlin and Ron Rivera – are men of color. (The Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals still have vacancies.) Only 10 of the league’s offensive and defensive coordinators are men of color – and two of them are on Bruce Arians’ staff in Tampa Bay.
Byron Leftwich is the Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator and Todd Bowles the defensive coordinator.
That Arians prizes diversity and recognizes its benefits comes as no surprise, given he hired the first female coach in NFL history in 2015.
In a league where more than two-thirds of the players are black, those statistics are pathetic. But that’s what happens when the owners are almost exclusively white and, whether by design or default, see their ideal coach or general manager as a white male much like themselves.
“Getting fired at one place and getting another chance isn’t the problem,” said Hansen, who acknowledged that many of his career opportunities have come because of white, male privilege.
“But young, talented coaches of color not getting the chance, that’s a huge problem.”
What’s worse is the NFL knows it. That’s why it implemented the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one candidate of color when hiring head coaches and general managers. But the owners have made a mockery of it, too often interviewing black candidates simply to check a box rather than offer them a real chance.
No one is saying someone should be hired simply because of their skin color. But they shouldn’t be excluded because of it, either.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.