When the NFL talks about the problem in minority hiring, they generally talk about it as a problem of supply rather than demand.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said as much in January at the Super Bowl, when he shrugged off a year in which one minority coach was eventually hired in an eight-vacancy cycle. “We don’t look at the success or failure of the Rooney Rule in one-year increments,” he said then.
But when the league and the Black College Hall of Fame brought leaders together this week for the Quarterback Coaching Summit at Morehouse College, they had a different view.
According to Jim Trotter of NFL Network, former Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome looked out over more than 30 pro and college quarterbacks coaches and offensive coordinators gathered at the event and saw a different issue.
“I didn’t know there were this many African-Americans coaching quarterbacks,” Newsome said. “It was a lack of awareness on my part. I had no idea. But I will be taking this back to Baltimore with me.”
Of course, discussing a lack of candidates in the pipeline is a crutch for a league which has policies designed to guarantee interviews for jobs, but hasn’t made much progress on that front.
No owners attended this week’s event at Morehouse College, but having Newsome’s voice as a megaphone can only help.
NFL executive president of football operations Troy Vincent was there, and pointed to the example of Jim Caldwell as evidence the system may not be the meritocracy some assume. Caldwell has a 62-50 record as a head coach, with just two losing seasons in seven (a Curtis Painter season in Indianapolis, and his first in Detroit, where they haven’t upgraded from his three straight 9-7s).
“We can sell a non-winning white coach, but we struggle to sell a winning black coach,” Vincent said. “But I’m not looking in the rearview mirror.”We’re looking forward. It’s about purpose over position. We’re just asking for a fair process and opportunity.”
It remains to be seen whether it will work, or whether the league shows a genuine desire to fix the problem. But now that a Hall of Famer and legendary personnel man such as Newsome’s aware of the reality, he’s going to make sure people know about it.