Unpacking 'discouraging' NFL accelerator program
Jim Trotter joins Brother from Another to discuss the history of the NFL's coach accelerator program and the disappointing lack of substantive change as a result of the initiative over many years.
- You have touched a lot of people. You've done a great job throughout your career. And, Jim, if I were looking for somebody, no matter what the profession is, if I'm looking for somebody to work for my company, I'm just gonna go with the results. And I'll take it from there.
For example, like, in other words, you wouldn't have to give me some accelerator program, where I have to sit down with candidates so I can be more comfortable with them because maybe I'm not comfortable with them because they're from a different background, or they have a different skin tone, or a different gender.
I mean, this is the biggest bunch of BS. Like, I understand what the League, I guess, is trying to do with their coaching accelerator program, where they sit down, they have a bunch of coaches and sit them with ownership so ownership can get comfortable with them,
Well, damn it, why don't you know what Leslie Frazier's done already? [INAUDIBLE], you've, done your homework. You're one of the top people in your profession. And I got to sit down with you so you understand why I'm good? I'm Chris Richard, you have to understand why I'm good? Brian Johnson in Philadelphia, you have to understand me?
Look at these names. Like, I'm not even hiring. And I know-- I know Pep Hamilton. I know some of these people. I know how good they are. Jim, what are they doing?
- Michael, it's interesting you say that because that's the exact column I tried to write last year when they announced it, this accelerator program. And NFL media turned it into something that was no longer a column and wanted to both sides the issue. Because what I did is I went back and I reached out to coaches who had gone through this before.
People think this accelerator program is new. It's not. If you go back to '98, I believe it was, Paul Tagliabue tried to do the same thing and brought a group of Black coaches out to an owners meeting in Florida. And I called a half dozen of those coaches who were there, on the record, who said it was total BS, that only about eight owners even stopped to talk to them as they came through the room.
And as I wrote this, I couldn't get it printed because now they wanted me to call Paul Tagliabue and see how he felt about it. And I said what does that have to do with anything? I said, I'm writing a column from the perspective of these men, these Black men who went through this.
And we fought for, like, 2 weeks or whatever. At one point, I said, just kill the column. I don't have the emotional bandwidth to keep fighting you on it. And then my agent told me, no, it's too important. You need to go forward with it. And so I asked for a meeting with the newsroom leader and my editor. And I said, I want to talk this through so that we can get this done.
And we finally get it done, to a point where we all agree, OK, we can run it. And then I'm asked by the newsroom leader, well, do you think this is the time to run it? And I said, no, it's not. I said the time to run it was before the event took place, which is when I tried to run it. We're now 2 weeks out. So it's gonna just come out of the blue and make no sense here. And what I was told is that, yeah, you know, I think you're right. Let's wait until, you know, something comes up and then we'll revisit this again.
So this is not new. And when you look at the results from last year's accelerated-- accelerator initiative, what do we get? We got one Black general manager and we got a net zero in Black coaches. So I get why the League is doing it. And I'm not being critical of the League here. I'm being critical of the owners.
Because as you say, if you have to have something like this to learn about who these men are and what they're about, that's on you. That's not on these men. And it's not on the League office. It is on the owners. And it's shameful, in my opinion.
- There's a couple of problems that I have with all of this, Jim and Holly. First and foremost, you mentioned Paul Tagliabue, who has not been the NFL commissioner in well over a decade. And so you're telling me that this was something that was implemented them-- then. And now, it's implemented again, and yet we're still not getting the sa-- any type of movement or evolution in that regard. So really, What is that saying about the League?
And then also, why are there names of people that I'm already familiar with? I mean, Holly already touched in on that. But there are guys that I know very well in terms of coaches that I've seen in numerous jobs with the NFL. What exactly do they have to do now because they've already worked for your organization before?
Why do they have to go through this program? You should already know something about this person already because they've been an employee. I'm just very confused as to what this exactly is supposed to do and why nothing has changed since it was first implemented
- Rita, it's simply cover. It's cover for the NFL. That's what I believe. It's cover to say we're doing everything we can to promote a level playing field here. And what they're saying without saying it is this is an owner problem. This ain't a us problem. That's what the League office is saying. So we have done all these things to present these candidates to you, these diverse candidates and whatnot. And you still choose not to hire them.
I keep saying this. And, you know, I was moderating something at the Rams event a month ago, or 2 months ago, whatever it was. And we were talking about Kenny Washington reintegrating the NFL back in '46. And seated next to me was Raheem Morris and some others. And I said at that time, Raheem Morris should be a head coach in the NFL. He should be a head coach now. He has earned that opportunity.
I said but think about it this way. The first Black head coach in the NFL was Fritz Pollard back in 1921. I said, we sit here today in 2023 and the number of Black coaches has increased by a total of two in over a century. Or I should say, by two by coaches who identify as Black. Because Mike McDaniel, as we know, doesn't identify as Black.
So the fact that we had-- that total has increased by only two over the course of a century, speaks to me to a culture within the NFL among owners that they simply don't value us, or don't think that we can do these jobs, or that we should be in these jobs. And until those numbers change, my opinion on that is not going to change.
Yeah. And you know what, Rita and Jim, you know, I don't think Jonathan Gannon went to this program to be hired by the Arizona Cardinals. I don't think Shane Steichen went through this program--
--to be hired by the Indianapolis Colts. And Nick Sirianni didn't do this when the Eagles tabbed him. And, you know, just, Matt Nagy from Kansas City, to Chicago, and then back to Kansas City. So--
- But, Michael, let me say this. So let me say this, just real quick.
- It is an owner's problem.
- It absolutely is. And to me, this is what speaks to among some owners-- and I'm not saying all, but amongst some-- the respect level they have for us. So Steve Wilks takes over a really difficult situation in Carolina, right? And he ends up leading them to where, in Week 16, I believe, with a week to go in the regular season, they're in position to make the playoffs, if they can beat, I think it was Tampa.
But anyway, they end up losing the game. They don't make the playoffs. So the next week, in the season finale, the owner of the team doesn't even show up for the game. And I'm saying, about David Tepper, if nothing else, I want to go and say that to Steve Wilks and to the players in that locker room, thank you for not quitting on the season. Thank you for giving me everything you had, right? He doesn't even show up.
And so we look at the job that Steve Wilks did, and he doesn't get hired, right? Frank Reich gets hired. And I think Frank is a good coach. I'm not complaining about that. But now look at that offensive staff and how diverse it is. And you're telling me that those people weren't good enough to be the head coach? But you're gonna load your staff with all these people as assistant coaches? I'm like, come on here, man, what are we doing? What are we saying? It's so transparent.
So I think-- I do think owners have a real problem hiring people into these decision-making positions who do not look like them or who do not share the same cultural background as them. And that is not me saying it. That is the data saying it.
- And, listen-- and to bring this--
- And, you know, picking up on that.
- I'm sorry.
- Yeah. I was gonna say, you know, Rita, just to land this plane and to bring it full circle, that's why you got the award that you got. That's one of the reasons that you are the winner of the Bill Nunn Junior Award, because you have been unafraid, unbothered, you know, going into territory that some people would consider m that is hostile, and speaking your truth, and telling the story like the story needs to be told. It's not like, Jim, you sat there and just thrown your opinions out there. You have a position. You have integrity. And you talk to people. If they're willing to talk to you, you'll talk to them. And you tell the story the right way. So, man, we appreciate you. We love you.