All of life’s wins should be celebrated, but parades are meant for special occasions. And despite how progressive this hiring cycle for Black head coaches in the NFL has been, anyone who has already poured the champagne is an idiot.
As of Jan. 30, Raheem Morris (Atlanta), Antonio Pierce (Las Vegas) and Jerod Mayo (New England) have joined Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh), Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay) and DeMeco Ryans (Houston) as the only Black head coaches in the NFL. The trio of Ryans, Bowles and Tomlin all made it to the playoffs this season, as Ryans is a favorite to win Coach of the Year in his first season on the job. If you’re looking for Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel’s name you won’t find it. You don’t get to enjoy the glory when you choose not to carry any of the burden.
“I identify as a human being, and my dad’s Black,” he once infamously said. Cool, Mike. Stay over there in the “human” category then.
No matter what the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders do with their openings, the last few weeks have already proven to be a step in the right direction. Over the last five hiring cycles before this one, only five Black coaches were hired in the 33 openings that didn’t have an interim candidate in the mix.
Morris was hired after a long gap between being the former head coach with the Buccaneers. The second chance he’s been granted in Atlanta is a rare one for men like him. Pierce was hired in Las Vegas after serving as the Raiders interim coach. For decades, the interim tag has traditionally been a death sentence for Black coaches. And in Foxboro, Mayo was the coach in waiting after Bill Belichick stepped down because it was in his contract, as he’s now the first Black head coach in Patriots history.
But as big as these steps are, they’re not giant leaps. This is the same league that’s headed to open court soon over Brian Flores’ lawsuit which alleges racist practices within the NFL when it comes to hiring Black coaches. The league is also trying to get Jim Trotter’s racial discrimination lawsuit against them dismissed because he questioned Roger Goodell about the league’s diversity.
And if that wasn’t enough evidence to be slow with praising NFL owners for their “evolution,” just think about guys like Lovie Smith and David Culley, who were both fired after one season in Houston, and Eric Bieniemy, who still has yet to become a head coach.
A source familiar with the situation recently hinted to Deadspin that the Tennessee Titans were a franchise people should keep an eye on, due to the way the announcement of Brian Callahan’s hiring went. The Titans interviewed David Shaw — who didn’t coach at all last season — Pierce and former Panthers offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, as the franchise made sure they surpassed their Rooney Rule quota.
In 2008, millions made the short-sighted mistake of deeming America a post-racial society because Barack Obama was elected President. For the past 16 years, Black America has been dealing with the repercussions of that election, whether it be the Birther Movement, Donald Trump, Charlottesville, George Floyd, January 6th, or a Republican Presidential candidate — who had to change her name to be accepted — falsely claiming the Civil War wasn’t about slavery because she believes America has “never been a racist country.” Don’t make that same mistake when it comes to owners in the NFL just because a few Black coaches got hired. Because what can’t be disputed about American history is that this country has always shown us that progress can be reversed even faster than it occurs.