From [NY Times] The N.F.L.’s 32 owners made an unexpected announcement after meeting a few weeks ago: The league was strengthening rules that obligate teams to consider minority candidates when hiring coaches and executives in their front offices.
At the time, the league said it was just trying to beef up existing regulations, not reacting to criticism that teams had been skirting the rules for years.
“Our focus was simply: How do we make the Rooney Rule better?” Robert Gulliver, the league’s chief human resources officer, said, referring to the rule adopted in 2003 and named for Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers at the time who pushed for the regulations.
Now, the league’s stated commitment to the rule will be put to the test.
On Monday, the number of African-American coaches fired in 2018 soared to five, leaving only two black coaches in a league where at least 70 percent of the players are African-American.
Race is already a much-discussed topic in relation to the league. Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who in 2016 began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality toward people of color, has not played in the league for the last two seasons. His protests amplified an already polarizing debate across the country, and he has filed a grievance accusing the N.F.L. of colluding to keep him off the field.
Coaches losing their jobs at the conclusion of the regular season is routine and expected, as they fall victim to the merciless pressure from owners and fans to succeed year after year. In addition to the five black coaches fired, three white coaches were let go this season, in Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Miami. But with the N.F.L. under pressure to increase the percentage of minority coaches and executives, the makeup of the latest class of jettisoned coaches was especially startling.
Four black coaches were fired Sunday or Monday, including the Jets’ Todd Bowles, who was let go shortly after his team’s final loss Sunday. The Jets had a 14-34 record in the last three seasons under Bowles.
Marvin Lewis, who had been at the helm of the Cincinnati Bengals since 2003, was fired Monday. Though he had resurrected the moribund Bengals and took them to the playoffs multiple times, he never won a playoff game and this season was Cincinnati’s third consecutive one with a losing record.
Also fired Monday was Denver Broncos Coach Vance Joseph, who had presided over the first back-to-back losing seasons for the Broncos since the early 1970s. In Arizona, Steve Wilks had been the Cardinals’ coach for just one season when he was fired Monday after his team compiled a league-worst record of 3-13.
In October, another African-American coach, Hue Jackson, was fired after his teams were 3-36-1 in roughly two and a half seasons.
The two black head coaches still in the N.F.L. are Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers (12-4), who are headed to a wild-card playoff game Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1).
Carolina Panthers Coach Ron Rivera, who is Latino, is the only other non-white head coach.
With eight coaching vacancies, it is possible that some of the recently dismissed coaches will be leading candidates for those openings; their experience and certain attributes may be a better fit with other teams. Jackson, for example, was on Lewis’s coaching staff in Cincinnati. And there are other minority candidates, like the Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Stanford Coach David Shaw, whose names have popped up in coaching discussions. [MORE]