Which of the following coaching records qualifies a person to be a head coach in the National Football League (NFL)?
a. 118 wins – 89 losses
b. 68 wins – 71 losses
c. 46 wins – 50 losses
d. 61 wins – 64 losses
To most of us the answer would appear to be “a” but to the “good ole boy network” known as the NFL, the answer is obviously “e. all of the above.” Even though 118 – 89, is a 57% winning percentage; the new coach of the Chicago Bears, John Fox (a.), has been fired twice as a result of that record. It still seems reasonable to hire a coach who led his team to the Super Bowl only last year but what about coaches b, c, and d?
The NFL has a long history of recycling old white guys to lead their football teams, so this year is really just more of the same. The Buffalo Bills wasted no time in recycling Rex Ryan (c.) after he was fired by the New York Jets for showing his excellent coaching ability by leading his team to a 4 – 12 record; a record better than only four teams in the entire league. It appears that coaching your team to the 28th best record in the league means you will only be unemployed for two weeks.
The new coach of the Oakland Raiders, Jack Del Rio (b.) and the new coach of the Denver Broncos, Gary Kubiak (d.) were fired as head coaches a few years ago and have been serving as coordinators in the interim. Raider fans would probably be thrilled to be only three games under .500 over a nine-year span based on their recent history, but does Del Rio’s 68 – 71 record really qualify him for a multi-million dollar contract? Talk about “good ole boy network,” Kubiak was current Broncos’ president John Elway’s roommate on the road when he backed up Elway as QB of the Broncos. That certainly qualifies him to be Elway’s friend, but coach of the team?
The other three head coaching vacancies this year were filled by coordinators; Dan Quinn to the Atlanta Falcons, Todd Bowles to the New York Jets, and Jim Tomsula was promoted by the San Francisco 49ers.
Of the seven coaches hired, only Bowles is black. In a league where over 65% of the players are men of color, only 14% of the new coaches are. Whatever happened to the Rooney Rule? NFL supporters would argue that they are making process because only two years ago there were 16 positions (8 coaches and 8 general managers) open and all were filled by white guys. This led NBC Analyst and former Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy to comment, “I know the concept is good and something we need to do. Obviously, it’s not working the way it should” (AP, 2013). It’s time for the NFL to honor the Rooney Rule and quit recycling old white guys.
Associated Press. (2013). Ex-coaches: Rooney Rule is broken. Retrieved from: http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/8903044/black-former-nfl-coaches-say-rooney-rule-broken
Dr. Stephen L. Butler is the Dean of Academic Affairs at the United States Sports Academy. He is a frequent contributor to the Academy’s “Sports Talk” program and has been a football fan for over 50 years.