The NFL believes it is time for team facilities, and hiring minds, to open.
The former could prove to be a long, slow process.
The latter is a public admission of institutional racism.
As the NFL tries to get back to work, the league is tweaking the venerable Rooney Rule, installed to give minority coaching candidates a chance to at least interview for jobs before being ignored.
On Tuesday, the league tabled a proposal to reward teams via the draft for hiring minority candidates, which amounted to NFL owners saying: “Our hiring history is so racist that we need to incentivize not being racist.”
The NFL features 32 teams. Four have minority head coaches, despite the league’s playing population being about 75% minorities.
There are only two black offensive coordinators, including former Vikings assistant Eric Bieniemy, who ran the Super Bowl-winning offense for Kansas City. There are only two black quarterbacks coaches and two black general managers in the league.
If you’re not angry about discrimination, you should be angry about so many teams breaking the golden rule of sports. They’re not doing all they can to win. Just like when the league wouldn’t draft or develop black quarterbacks.
NFL quarterbacks are proof that when the league downplays the leadership ability of minorities, it is the league that suffers.
For decades, black quarterbacks would go undrafted or be asked to change positions. Former Viking Warren Moon, a brilliant quarterback from the University of Washington, had to prove himself in Canada before the NFL would give him a shot and he became one of the best passers of his era.
The ability of Lamar Jackson to play quarterback in the NFL was called into question. He was the fifth quarterback taken in the 2018 draft. Last year, Jackson was the NFL’s MVP.
Five of the seven best quarterback ratings last season in the NFL were produced by black quarterbacks — Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson, with Mahomes winning the Super Bowl.
There always have been athletes such as Mahomes and Jackson available. Only now are some NFL teams designing offenses around their skills, rather than trying to turn them into safeties.
In fact, you can trace the failures of many NFL franchises to drafting quarterbacks who look vaguely like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, until they play.
How many black coaches or administrators could have performed like Mahomes or Jackson if given the chance? How many could have succeeded if given a second chance?
Remember, the Patriots hired Bill Belichick after he went 36-44 in Cleveland. Would a black head coach have gotten another opportunity?
Leslie Frazier coached the Vikings for three full seasons. He went 3-13 as the team rebuilt in 2011, 10-6 with Christian Ponder as his quarterback in 2012, and 5-10-1 when Ponder imploded in 2013.
Frazier failed, mostly, because Ponder failed. But it was the head coach, not the general manager who drafted Ponder, who took the fall. Now Frazier is the defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, but he’s not getting head coaching interviews.
Since 1956, the Detroit Lions have had one head coach stay on the job for more than a full season and win 55% of his games: Jim Caldwell. The Lions fired Caldwell, a black coach, and replaced him with Matt Patricia, who has won less than 30% of his games.
In the modern world of sports analytics, more teams should realize hiring minorities as general managers and coaches is a good way to beat the market by acquiring undervalued assets.
“The fact is, we have a broken system,” said Troy Vincent, the NFL’s vice president of football operations.
Bieniemy is the offensive coordinator of the reigning Super Bowl champs, a team that won with offense. I wouldn’t want to say that if he were white, he would be a head coach. But if he were white, he’d be a head coach.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org