NFL postseason starts tomorrow, but a different storyline has been dominating headlines this week: the head coaching (HC) carousel

January 13, 2023
The countdown is on to tomorrow’s NFL postseason kickoff, but a different storyline has been dominating headlines this week: the head coaching (HC) carousel. And while Monday’s game will likely include some recognition of MLK Jr. Day, the league’s performative acts aren’t enough to distract from decades of discrimination against Black HCs.
Sports NewsFootball
SOURCE: BOB LEVEY/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: BOB LEVEY/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: The countdown is on to tomorrow’s NFL postseason kickoff, but a different storyline has been dominating headlines this week: the head coaching (HC) carousel. And while Monday’s game will likely include some recognition of MLK Jr. Day, the league’s performative acts aren’t enough to distract from decades of discrimination against Black HCs.

The latest: Last weekend’s regular-season finale gave way to “Black Monday,” a day when underperforming HCs are often fired. The Houston Texans parted ways with HC Lovie Smith after just one season (more on that in a minute) while the Arizona Cardinals said goodbye to HC Kliff Kingsbury after three disappointing campaigns.

  • Those firings mean new HC vacancies, and with it, new rumors. The offseason months are often filled with discussion about which top candidates are interviewing for which roles and predictions of where they might land.
  • This year, former New Orleans Saints HC Sean Payton is among the most sought after — three teams have already requested interviews with the Super Bowl champ. Kevin James could never.

The background: This is the first full NFL offseason since former Miami Dolphins HC and current Pittsburgh Steelers assistant Brian Flores bravely sued the NFL and three of its teams for alleged racism in their hiring practices, shining a spotlight on a systemic issue that still plagues the league.

  • Despite the fact that about 60% of NFL players are Black, the league has just two active Black head coaches (out of a possible 32) following Smith’s firing.
  • Speaking of, Smith’s release is the latest in a disturbing pattern for the dumpster fire Texans, who last year fired Black HC David Culley after just one season while failing to commit resources to boost the struggling squad. Pretty fishy.

What’s next: The league’s Rooney Rule requires teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for every HC vacancy, but as Flores’ lawsuit demonstrated, there’s a track record of teams bringing in candidates as a way to essentially check a box and satisfy the rule. Time will tell if the league is ready to do the real work and address this unsolved issue.

Sports NewsFootball