The NFL began the regular season with seven black head coaches. However, as of Monday, that number is now down to two.
Now out of work are Tampa Bay’s Dirk Koetter, the New York Jets Todd Bowles, Miami’s Adam Gase, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, Arizona’s Steve Wilks and Denver’s Vance Joseph.
Bowles, Lewis, Wilks and Joseph are black, as is former Cleveland coach Hue Jackson, who was fired during the season. So the minority NFL head coaching number took a major hit, and this caused dismay from some reporters on social media.
Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman tweeted this before the Wilks firing was official:
Coaching firings are bad overall but five black coaches fired today: Marvin Lewis, Steve Wilks (not official but likely), Vance Joseph, Todd Bowles, Hue Jackson.
Eight total vacancies.
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) December 31, 2018
ESPN’s “The Undefeated,” a website that explores the intersections of race, sports and culture, got a bit more dramatic:
The NFL firing its black head coaches this season like pic.twitter.com/DCakKjUpBh
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) December 31, 2018
NFL.com writer Jim Trotter thought the firings were a bad sign for diversity:
Not a good look for diversity today in the NFL. In 2006, when Commissioner Goodell was hired, there were seven minority coaches and four minority general managers. Today there are three minority HCs and 1 minority GM after Ozzie retires.
— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) December 31, 2018
The NFL is down to two black head coaches, because one of the three minority coaches is Carolina’s Ron Rivera, who is Puerto Rican.
Trotter isn’t blaming NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league office for the current low number of minority coaches.
“The league has taken multiple steps over the years to increase opportunities for qualified minority candidates, but the league does not make these hires, owners do,” Trotter tweeted.
The NFL instituted “The Rooney Rule” in 2003 which requires teams to interview minority candidates for heading coaching and GM jobs.
But as Trotter pointed out, the NFL can mandate minority interviews. They can’t force teams to hire somebody, or the keep them, based on their ethnic background.
Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis doesn’t get why some are complaining about five minority coaches getting fired.
Travis tweeted: “Why should diversity be an NFL goal? Black head coaches didn’t win and were fired. Just like white head coaches were. NFL’s a meritocracy & coaching talent is rare. White and black coaches are being treated the exact same. As they should be.”
As Travis pointed out, the NFL is a “meritocracy” and Bowles was asked (a couple of days before he was fired) about the job he did this year coaching the Jets and bluntly responded, “The record says it all.”
Bowles’ Jets finished the 2018 season with a 4-12 record after compiling 5-11 records each of previous two seasons.
It would’ve been hard for the Jets to justify bringing back a coach with a three-year run like that.
The Buccaneers fired Koetter, who is white, after back-to-back 5-11 seasons.
As legendary NFL head coach Bill Parcells often said, “You are what your record says you are.”
And most of these coaches were fired because their records weren’t very good.