5 of 7 African-American NFL coaches sacked

Fred Jeter | 1/11/2019, 6 a.m.
African-Americans seem to be on the NFL’s endangered coaching list. Only two black head coaches remain in the 32-team league ...

Todd Bowles

Todd Bowles

Marvin Lewis

Marvin Lewis

Hue Jackson

Hue Jackson

Vance Joseph

Vance Joseph

Steve Wilks

Steve Wilks

African-Americans seem to be on the NFL’s endangered coaching list.

Only two black head coaches remain in the 32-team league after five were fired recently.

Receiving pink slips were Coaches Steve Wilks of the Arizona Cardinals, Todd Bowles of the New York Jets, Vance Joseph of the Denver Broncos, Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals and Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns.

Coach Jackson was let go on Oct. 29 and re-hired as an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Coincidentally, the Monday following the NFL’s final regular season games is commonly referred to as “Black Monday” because of the inevitable purging of head coaches. That day fell on Dec. 31.

Black coaches weren’t alone in being relieved of their duties. White coaches sent packing were Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers, Dirk Koetter of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Adam Gase of the Miami Dolphins.

In a “win or else” cutthroat environment, NFL coaches come and go on a regular basis. The revolving door keeps spinning.

That said, about 70 percent of the NFL’s players are African-American, but only 6 percent of the head coaches on the sidelines are African-American.

The two remaining black coaches are successful veteran Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Anthony Lynn, who turned around a sagging program with the Los Angeles Chargers during the past two seasons.

The absence of African-American head coaches has resulted despite the “Rooney Rule” requiring NFL owners to interview minority candidates for vacancies for head coaches or general managers.

The Rooney Rule, named after former Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney, was implemented in 2002 following controversial firings of coaches Tony Dungy of Tampa Bay and the late Dennis Green of the Minnesota Vikings, both African-Americans.

The intent of the Rooney Rule is commendable. The results, however, remain questionable.       

This isn’t the final chapter, however.

With an abundance of job openings, what coaches of color might join Coaches Tomlin and Lynn for the 2019 season? 

Topping many lists is Brian Flores, the defensive coordinator under revered Coach Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots.

Flores, a 37-year-old native of the Brownsville area of Brooklyn, N.Y., has been serving under Coach Belichick since 2004. He became the defensive coordinator this past season after working his way up with stints as scout and special teams, safeties and linebackers coach.

As a Belichick protégé, Flores is sure to be interviewed for a head job by at least one, and possibly more, NFL teams.

Among NFL “re-treads,” there is speculation the 53-year-old Jackson could succeed Lewis in Cincinnati, despite his 3-36-1 record in Cleveland.

Other rumored prospects include Jim Caldwell, 63, who posted an overall 62-50 record with the Indianapolis Colts from 2009 to 2011 and the Detroit Lions from 2014 to 2017.

Lovie Smith went 89-87 with the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay from 2004 to 2012, but was eventually fired by both teams. It hasn’t gone well for Smith at the University of Illinois, where his program is 9-27 in three years, including 4-23 in the Big Ten. 

Other names popping up as potential head coaches — or at least candidates deserving of interviews — are George Edwards, Duce Staley, Eric Bieniemy, Darren Perry, Kris Richard and Byron Leftwich.

Edwards, 51, is defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. Staley, 43, is the running backs coach for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

Bieniemy, 49, is the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator who has earned praise for development of quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Perry, 50, is a former Green Bay defensive coach who was part of Super Bowl championship teams with the Packers and Steelers.

Richard, 39, is currently the defensive backs coach for the Dallas Cowboys. He was previously a defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.

Leftwich, 38, an NFL quarterback from 2003 to 2012, was offensive coordinator this past season for Arizona before getting fired along with Wilks.

From the college ranks, a leading candidate to head to the NFL is David Shaw from Stanford University. The son of former NFL assistant coach Willie Shaw, David Shaw, 46, has posted a glossy 82-26 record at Stanford since 2011.