PRESS BOX: First to get fired, last to get hired: The dilemma of Black coaches in the NFL

Illustration by Jewel Nguyen

Arrick Wilson, Sports Editor

Currently, in the National Football League, or NFL, out of the 32 present teams, there are only two African American coaches. This is unacceptable, as over 50% of the players are African American, according to

In other words, NFL, there is a problem.

The double standard is evident with African American coaches. Former head coach Brian Flores, who is African American, had two back-to-back winning seasons and led the Miami Dolphins to almost playoff berths with 19 wins. 

In spite of his success, he was fired. It’s mind blowing to think that an African American coach’s time with a team is shorter than someone with a lighter skin tone. For example, in two seasons, North Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has only won 10 games and still has his job. The difference is evident. 

Flores was fired from his previous job on Jan. 10. He was allegedly fired because of a negative relationship with the Dolphins’ front office personnel, according to ESPN reporter Jeff Darlington’s tweet. After the surprise firing, Flores was in the running for the New York Giants head coach position, because he was considered one of the best available coaches.

Flores filed a class-action lawsuit on Feb. 1 against the NFL, the Miami Dolphins, the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos. The lawsuit accuses the NFL of racial discrimination in their hiring practices and a breach in the Rooney Rule, which requires the NFL to interview diverse coaching candidates, according to the NFL operations.

In a text message from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, provided on page seven of Flores’ lawsuit, Belichick congratulated Flores for receiving the job. The kicker was that Belichick informed Flores three days before his interview. Belichick had mistakenly texted the wrong Brian, as Brian Daboll got the job.

“Got it — I hear from Buffalo & NYG that you are their guy. Hope it works out if you want it to!!” Belichick stated in a text. “Sorry — I fucked this up. I double checked & I misread the text. I think they are naming Daboll. I’m sorry about that.”

This blunder by Belichick could cause other people of color to earn head coaching jobs, if the lawsuit is successful.

In an interview with the ESPN talk show “Get Up,” Flores was adamant about the need for reform in the NFL.

“We need change. That was a number one reason. I know there’s a sacrifice there’s a risk to that but, at the end of the day, we need change,” Flores said. “I know many very capable Black coaches, some of my staff, who I know if given an opportunity, or when given an opportunity, they’re going to go and do a great job on their interview, and I would just hate for that to be a waste.”

It is no question that the NFL needs change. The league has been stagnant, continually denying diversity in coaching — there are plenty of capable Black coaches who can step up and be a head coach. 

Plenty of African American coaches are put into lesser roles instead of head coaching positions, like Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Bieniemy has won a Super Bowl and led the Chiefs to multiple successful offensive seasons. Multiple NFL teams have interviewed Bieniemy, but overlooked him. Chiefs All-NFL wide receiver Tyreek Hill said he was surprised to see that Bieniemy has not gotten a head coaching job yet.

“I’m not a GM [general manager] or anything, but I will say coach Bieniemy has helped me out a lot [as] a man, player … It’s very shocking that he didn’t get a job. … His time will come,” Hill said according to ESPN’s tweet

Many have spoken out, seeing as the NFL’s coveted “Rooney Rule” was broken in light of the Flores situation. Popular ESPN writer and commentator Stephen A. Smith commented on the Rooney Rule’s defectiveness in this situation on his show “First Take.”

“In 2003, when the Rooney Rule was instigated, essentially compelling you to at least interview African American coaches and give them something close to a fair and equitable opportunity, there were three African-American coaches in the national football league,” Smith said. “We are 19 years removed from the institution and implementation of the Rooney Rule, and there is now one head coach.”

Since the episode aired, another Black head coach, Lovie Smith, has been hired by the Houston Texans. 

The Rooney Rule has been insignificant and hasn’t changed anything to spark diverse leadership among teams in the NFL. Black coaches have continuously been denied progress many times throughout the tenure of the rule. 

Flores said that he was determined to adjust the mindsets of the owners of the NFL, who refuse to hire African American coaches.

“I think we need to change the hearts and minds of the people making those decisions. That’s why, you know, we filed the lawsuit,” Flores said.

ESPN journalist and broadcaster Taylor Rooks tweeted about the situation, stating that there weren’t enough African American coaches in the NFL.

“There are not enough black head coaches given a chance in the NFL. I’m not here to argue the merits of this lawsuit….I’m just here to say that the sky is blue,” Rooks stated in a tweet.  

The NFL has a problem that needs to be fixed. There is a major need for diversity in the league. There are no excuses for why African American coaches do not have jobs in the NFL. These individuals are qualified and well-equipped to coach teams. Things need to change as soon as possible for the league — viewers deserve to see diverse leadership among NFL teams.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply