Minority candidates aren't getting the jobs
Published: Sunday, January 22, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 23, 2006 at 9:54 a.m.
If Denver loses to Pittsburgh today, you may see Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak switch shirts before he gets out of the locker room.
It's no secret that Houston will hire Kubiak as its head coach as soon as the Broncos' season ends. That will leave two openings for NFL head coaches, assuming nobody gets fired or abruptly resigns during today's pre-game show.
Of the seven jobs that have been filled, one of them went to an African-American and that didn't even result in a plus-one for the league's black coaches because Herm Edwards simply moved from one job to another.
Everywhere else, it's back to the old days for the NFL, except that the Rooney Rule requires them to interview black candidates. After making significant progress over the last few years, it appears that NFL owners and general managers struggled to make it past the "M's" in the white pages. And I do mean white pages.
McCarthy. Marinelli. Mangini. Who are these guys?
They were assistant coaches who are now head coaches. Eric Mangini has all of one year as a defensive coordinator in New England. Mike McCarthy was the offensive coordinator for the mighty San Francisco 49ers, who finished last in the NFL in total offense and passing offense. Rod Marinelli was the defensive line coach for Tampa Bay before being hired by...
Sorry, but there have been so many job openings in the NFL this year, and the hirings so non-descript that I have a hard time remembering who was hired by whom.
There are still two openings out there at Buffalo and Oakland. John Wooten has not given up hope, although the chances of one of those teams hiring a minority candidate as head coach appear to be slim.
"I'm not knocking anybody," he said. "But are we disappointed? Certainly. Even to the point of being totally shocked."
Wooten is chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group of minority coaches, scouts and executives that works with the league on minority hiring (Pollard was the league's first black coach). I spoke to Wooten Saturday by phone at his home near Arlington, Texas, where he was still pushing to help Jim Caldwell, a black assistant with Indianapolis who interviewed Friday in Buffalo.
Wooten knows a little something about the workings of the league. He was a player with Cleveland and in the front offices of Dallas, Philadelphia and Baltimore as well as the NFL offices in New York. He was among the black ex-players, along with Bobby Mitchell and Willie Davis, who met each year during the 1980s with then-commissioner Pete Rozelle about the lack of black coaches in the league.
"I remember (Dallas general manager) Tex Schramm asking me, 'Why does it have to be black coaches?' " Wooten said. "I asked him, 'Why shouldn't they be?'
"I was talking to Willie the other day and we were both talking about how when we started there wasn't a black coach anywhere. Now, you can't look at a sideline without seeing some."
Progress has been made, but this year with so many openings, the perception is that it has come to a screeching halt.
New York Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis and Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon both interviewed with four teams, and Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, who guided a dominant defense this year, had three interviews. All are more than qualified to be head coaches, certainly more qualified than the M's.
All they got was practice at answering questions.
But the real question is why has the NFL taken a step back after taking so many small steps forward?
"We can't quit," Wooten said. "I've said it to our guys, I said it to Jim Caldwell today. We cannot allow this situation to discourage us. We're happy with the process, just not the results. It's a bump in the road.
"It still comes down to taking a chance."
After the success of Marvin Lewis, Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy this season you would think NFL teams wouldn't view the hiring of black coaches as taking a chance in a copycat league.
It just seems like there were a few teams that went out of their way not to hire a black coach, especially a guy like Lewis, who was considered the favorite for two different jobs and ended up in the same one he had a year ago.
"We thought Tim Lewis was our real strong horse," Wooten said.
This race reversal is baffling. If it's coincidence, well, we'll see.
It looks more like the reason there is the Rooney Rule and there is a Fritz Pollard Alliance.
You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at email@example.com or by calling 374-5053. Dooley's columns appear Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
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