If you don’t see race as a factor in the firing of Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks after just one season, that's good. We agree on that.
But that doesn’t mean people who see it differently are wrong.
The NFL has a problem with race, and firings like Wilks’ help illustrate it.
Since 2000, 10 coaches have been dismissed after just one year. Three of them are black.
There’s never been a time in NFL history when 30 percent of head coaches are black. At most 25 percent of head coaches have been, which has happened twice, in 2011 and last year.
That's despite the fact NFL rosters are typically about 70 percent black.
This race conversation comes up as four of the six coaches fired immediately after the 2018 season were black: Vance Joseph, Marvin Lewis, Todd Bowles and Wilks. Hue Jackson, who is black, was let go earlier in the year.
There are now two black head coaches in the NFL: Anthony Lynn and Mike Tomlin.
Lynn is in the playoffs and Tomlin has been there eight times during his 12-year career, including two AFC titles and a Super Bowl championship.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn greets Broncos coach Vance Joseph following the a game at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. (Photo: Ron Chenoy / USA TODAY Sports)
It’s something prominent analysts are noticing.
Jim Trotter said on Twitter: “Not a good look for diversity today in the NFL. In 2006, when Commissioner Goodell was hired, there were seven minority coaches and four minority general managers. Today there are three minority HCs and 1 minority GM after Ozzie (Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens) retires.”
Not a good look for diversity today in the NFL. In 2006, when Commissioner Goodell was hired, there were seven minority coaches and four minority general managers. Today there are three minority HCs and 1 minority GM after Ozzie retires.
Dave Zirin, meanwhile, tweeted: “In a league 70% African American, there are now two (!) Black head coaches after today’s (firings). Shameful numbers. Failure of a Rooney Rule without teeth and owners who will nearly always bend towards whiteness.”
In a league 70% African American, there are now two(!) Black head coaches after today’s hiring. Shameful numbers. Failure of a Rooney Rule without teeth and owners who will nearly always bend towards whiteness.
The NFL recently expanded the Rooney Rule, which mandates minority candidates be interviewed for head coaching and general manager jobs.
That can help. Although, interviews don’t always equal jobs, as Zirin alluded.
The NFL’s problem seems to start with the pipeline.
The league needs more black quarterbacks. Quarterbacks often go on to coach their position.
The NFL needs more black quarterbacks coaches. Quarterback coaches often go on to become offensive coordinators.
The NFL needs more black offensive coordinators. Offensive coordinators often go on to become head coaches.
Speaking of quarterbacks, one rookie first-round draft pick is in the playoffs, Lamar Jackson, who is black.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson runs with the ball during the second half of a game against the Browns at M&T Bank Stadium. (Photo: Tommy Gilligan / USA TODAY Sports)
Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen all were drafted ahead of him and none led his team to the postseason.
Go back one year. Mitchell Trubisky was the first quarterback taken.
Patrick Mahomes, who was selected 10th overall, threw 50 touchdown passes this year. Trubisky threw 24.
Deshaun Watson was taken two spots after Mahomes. Watson threw 26 touchdowns.
Trubisky is 15-11 as a starter.
Mahomes is 13-4.
Watson is 14-8.
While we’re discussing race and quarterbacks, where’s Colin Kaepernick?
He somehow remains out of the NFL in favor of less accomplished players such as Nathan Peterman, who has thrown 12 interceptions in eight career games and once threw five interceptions in a half.
Police brutality is a real problem in minority communities. Black men have been shot and killed in routine encounters, while white mass shooters have been taken alive.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick hasn't played an NFL snap since 2016. (Photo: Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY Sports)
Kaepernick protested that by kneeling during the national anthem, a show of respect and reverence that was distorted by people who didn’t care to listen.
He’s 4-2 in the playoffs and nearly led a historic second-half comeback over Baltimore in the 2013 Super Bowl.
He should be on an NFL roster.
Back to the coaches, since that’s what started this conversation.
On an individual level, it’s easy to see why Wilks was fired. His offense was inept. His defense couldn’t stop the run. His teams too often were blown out.
He didn’t seem to have the support necessary for success, finishing the season with a pair of coordinators who had never held the position before. (Ironically, each was black, making it just the third time in NFL history that had happened.)
But, overall, the numbers are the numbers.
There’s a problem.
The NFL has the muscle and the money to solve it.
The question becomes whether it has the will?