A wild Tuesday of NFL coaching hires left some disillusioned the next morning about the current state and biases of the league, specifically as it relates to diversity.
On an insightful discussion Wednesday on ESPN’s ‘First Take,’ several analysts criticized NFL teams for hiring two lesser-known white candidates to fill their head coaching vacancies and having “bias” when it comes to overlooking some worthy minority choices. While more than 70 percent of the NFL’s players are black, there are just four minority coaches among 31 teams — with the Cleveland Browns still trying to narrow down their next leader.
“There is a problem when it comes to black men in the National Football League being afforded the respect they deserve and something needs to be said about it,” Stephen A. Smith said on Wednesday’s show with analysts Domonique Foxworth and Marcus Spears and moderator Molly Qeriim.
Most of the discussion revolved around the most recent of the two hirings with the Carolina Panthers picking former Baylor coach Matt Rhule and the New York Giants reportedly set to hire Joe Judge, who won three Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots as their special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach. While not yet official, Judge has generated some mixed reactions with few people outside of the New England fanbase knowing much about him prior to the news.
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy remains at the top of the list for minority coaches looking for an opportunity to become a head coach with some considering him the best available option across the board, even better than Rhule and Dallas Cowboys new hire Mike McCarthy. The latest batch of NFL hirings didn’t totally exclude minorities, though, as former Panthers coach Ron Rivera — who is of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent — was quickly hired as the new leader of the Washington Redskins.
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Foxworth Tired of Hearing, ‘I Had a Feeling’
One of the more striking details about Rhule’s deal with the Panthers is its value: seven years, $60 million with an opportunity to earn about $10 million more with incentives. It marks an important salary turning point for NFL coaches, but Smith argued such a deal would never have been done with a black coach.
In the same vein, Foxworth said he is tired of owners not giving detailed reasons for why they chose or didn’t choose a head coaching candidate, citing some of Panthers owner David Tepper’s reasons for hiring Rhule. Among other things, Tepper said, “He dresses like me, so I have to love the guy.”
“I think what happens is, once you look at all these candidates and they seem similar, there’s some emotional component, some feeling that puts you over the top. And you don’t know what it is, but I do. It’s your bias. It’s your unconscious, personal bias. And if you force them to put in writing their decisions, they can’t write down, ‘I had a feeling’ … and then look at us and say, ‘Yeah, I hired this guy to run my multi-billion-dollar industry because I had a feeling, because he looked like me, because he made me feel good.
“You’re going to have to be brought to account on the reasons why (a coach is hired or not hired).”
Foxworth added he doesn’t want to disparage or “tear down” any of the newly hired white coaches because “the best coach” he ever had during his time as an NFL cornerback was John Harbaugh, who was hired as the Ravens leader from a special teams position. He also said Judge could turn out to be a great coaching hire for the Giants in the end.
“Maybe he deserves the job, but that’s not the point,” Foxworth continued. “There are other people who deserve the job and have followed the pipeline, they followed all the rules, they’ve done what they’re supposed to do and they’re not getting an opportunity.”