Hiring minority coaches in the NFL is up to the owners
No matter how hard the NFL pushes teams to hire minority coaches, owners have the final say.
Earlier this year, the NFL introduced an initiative that requires all 32 clubs to employ a woman or a member of an ethnic or racial minority to serve as an offensive assistant coach.
In May, the league launched an acceleration program, bringing 60 minority coaches and executives to Atlanta to meet with owners in short sessions so they could get to know each other.
There has been progress. After only three black coaches were hired from 2018 to 2021, three black coaches were hired in the last cycle. There are now six minorities in the head coaching positions: Mike Tomlin of Pittsburgh, Lovie Smith of Houston and Todd Bowles of Tampa Bay, who are black; Miami’s Mike McDaniel, who is biracial; Robert Saleh of the Jets, of Lebanese descent; and Ron Rivera from Washington, who is Hispanic.
Still, many people want to see improvement, especially in the wake of Brian Flores’ lawsuit alleging racial discrimination.
Led by Troy Vincent, Executive Vice President of NFL Football Operations, and Jonathan Beane, NFL Senior Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the league is doing its part to increase opportunity. But everyone knows that it’s up to the owners to make the decisions.
« It’s not about forcing anybody to hire anybody. It’s about exposing good coaches to those who make the calls, » Vincent said.
Lack of opportunities
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is most often mentioned as a deserving candidate who didn’t land a head coaching job. Bieniemy has an impressive resume, leadership qualities and strong endorsements from Chiefs coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He’s interviewed 15 times with 14 teams over the past four years, but is still waiting for a team to give him a shot. He doesn’t blame the NFL.
Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is still waiting for a second opportunity to head coach after going 21-32-1 with the Vikings nearly a decade ago.
« The league with the commissioner [Roger] Goodell and the work that Troy Vincent is doing with his staff, I think there are people trying to push things forward, but at the end of the day, it always comes down to ownership, » Frazier said. « I don’t I don’t know if the league can do much more than just keep doing programs like Quarterback Summit to prep guys and get them into position and hopefully someone will give them an opportunity.
« I’ve been so impressed with the number of young candidates who are more than capable of one day becoming coordinators in our league, becoming quarterback coaches in our league, becoming head coaches in our league. That’s just a matter of someone giving an opportunity to show they can lead a team. »
Do NFL programs help?
Bieniemy was impressed with the acceleration program in May. He hopes this will prove to be a building block.
« One thing the owners are going to do, they’re going to hire whoever they want to hire, » Bieniemy said. « They want to hire the best candidate. I thought about the acceleration program they’ve done a great job. It’s resulted in coaches like me and a lot of people who are behind the scenes who are on staff or who do different things in this industry, it gave us the opportunity to bond with people and also gave us the opportunity, a front seat, to sit down and have a normal conversation with the owners.
« And, I thought that was a lot because when it’s all said and done, you want to make sure you’re comfortable with the people you’re working with. I think they’ve done a great job. by simply creating an environment at this acceleration program where everyone felt comfortable. Now I’m going to re-evaluate who I am again. Yes, owners are going to hire whoever they choose to hire. My job is to m sure I can be the best candidate that’s ready when that particular moment hits. »