Same ol' same ol': No progress for Black head coaches in NFL
After completing the latest round of coaching hires this week, the NFL won't look much different on the sidelines in 2023.
DeMeco Ryans was the lone Black candidate to land one of the five openings, which means the 32-team league remains stuck at just three Black coaches heading toward a new season for the fifth year in a row.
The NFL also maintained the status quo with six minority head coaches, which includes Miami's Mike McDaniel, who has a Black father and identifies as multiracial.
It remains a stubbornly low number in a league where nearly 57% of the players are Black and more that 69% are minorities, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.
“It's certainly discouraging,” said Richard Lapchick, who heads the institute. “I have no doubt the league is trying to make a push to strengthen its policies ... but the record is the record.”
Three Black candidates stand out after all openings from the recently completed season were filled.
— Steve Wilks took over as Carolina's interim coach when Matt Rhule was fired and nearly guided to the Panthers to the playoffs.
That wasn't enough to land the full-time job, which went to Frank Reich, a white coach who was fired in the midst of this past season by the Colts. Wilks, who was dumped by Arizona after just one season in his previous head coaching opportunity, is now San Francisco's defensive coordinator.
— Former Miami head coach Brian Flores was among the candidates for the Cardinals' job after the firing of Kliff Kingsbury. But Flores pulled himself out of the mix, instead accepting an offer as Minnesota's defensive coordinator because “it was a great chance for growing.” It's not clear if he would have gotten the Arizona job, which instead went to Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.
— Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who is annually touted as one of the top Black head coaching candidates, was passed over again — even after the Chiefs won their second Super Bowl title in four years. This time, it was even more striking because both coordinators for the team they beat in the big game wound up with head coaching jobs. Philadelphia offensive coordinator Shane Steichen was tapped by the Indianapolis Colts.
While introducing Gannon at a media event Thursday, Arizona's new general manager, Monti Ossenfort, insisted the team considered a diverse group of candidates.
“It was important for us to cast a wide net and interview a diverse group of people — not only from a race standpoint but also experience,” he said. “Ultimately, we had to come up with the fit that we felt was the best for the Arizona Cardinals. That led us to Jonathan.”
Ryans became the third straight Black head coach hired by the Houston Texans, but there's a big caveat to that seeming sign of progress. Their last two coaches — David Culley and Lovie Smith — were both dismissed after only one season.
The other opening was in Denver, where the Broncos went with former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.
Over the last five hiring cycles, a total of 33 non-interim jobs opened up around the league. Just five of those went to Black coaches — three of them hired by the Texans.
That group also included Flores, who took over the Dolphins heading into the 2019 season — and was fired just three years later despite two straight winning marks. He has since sued the NFL for discrimination.
The only other Black coach hired during that timeframe was Tampa Bay's Todd Bowles, who took over last March after Bruce Arians unexpectedly retired. Bowles is set to return for his second season with the Bucs despite a disappointing 2022 campaign.