Black Position Coaches Matter

As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to sweep across the country this summer, the lack of Black head coaches and coordinators in the National Football League has once again become a hot topic of discussion in the media. We all know the disturbing numbers. Only three of 32 head coaches are Black, and only 13 of 91 offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators are Black. These would be troubling percentages in any sport, but they are particularly disturbing considering that nearly 70% of the players in the league are Black.

It’s obvious the NFL needs more Black coordinators if it wants more Black head coaches, but before that can happen, the league needs more Black position coaches and assistant position coaches. There are currently 391 such positions. The number of Blacks occupying those positions is 137. That’s just 35% – even though many positions (running back, wide receiver, linebacker, and cornerback) are comprised almost entirely of Black players, while other positions are comprised of a majority of Black players. You don’t have to be Einstein to understand that until the number of Black position coaches and assistant position coaches goes up, the number of Black head coaches and coordinators will continue to be too low.

Interestingly, Blacks are best represented when it comes to quality control coaches. According to Wikipedia, a quality control coach is “a member of the coaching staff whose primary job is preparing the team for a game, beginning sometimes two or three weeks before the actual game. Their primary duties include preparing for the game by analyzing game film for statistical analysis.” Almost 44 percent (21 of 48) of these positions are held by Blacks. And while that’s obviously not a bad thing, it’s a long way from analyzing game film for statistical analysis to even being a coordinator, and considering how difficult it is for Blacks to climb just one step on the coaching ladder, climbing multiple steps is usually a bridge too far.

So which teams are doing the best job when it comes to hiring Black coaches? I decided to study that very question, and while my results are certainly subjective, I think they are pretty informative. I went through all 32 coaching staffs and assigned point values to each position. The point values were as follows:

10 pts. = head coach
7 pts. = offensive, defensive or special teams coordinator
5 pts. = run or pass game coordinator (offense or defense)
4 pts. = position coach
1 pt. = assistant position coach

These were the only positions on the coaching staff I counted. For the sake of this particular exercise, I didn’t count quality control coaches or assistant coaches who weren’t assigned to a particular position group.

Let’s use the Packers as an example to show how my final numbers were calculated. Their total number of points was 13. The Packers have three Black position coaches (12 points) and one Black assistant position coach (1 point). The Packers do have four Black quality control coaches on their staff, but again, I chose not to include them in this particular study. So, of the 71 available points, only 13 were allocated to Black coaches. That’s 18 percent. In comparison, just over 68 percent of the team’s players are Black (60 of 88). As for where the Packers rank when it comes to diversity in their coaching staff, here’s a look at all 32 teams.

What makes Tampa Bay’s score of 48 so impressive is that it was achieved without a Black head coach. All three of Bruce Arians’ coordinators are Black. He also has one Black run game coordinator and five Black position coaches. So while the 67-year-old has yet to win a Super Bowl, he’s Bill Belichick, Chuck Noll, Don Shula, Tom Landry, and Vince Lombardi combined when it comes to giving Black coaches a chance.

As for the Packers, they came out ahead of only five teams. This isn’t to suggest head coach Matt LaFleur acted maliciously in putting together his staff, but it does suggest he could do a better job when it comes to hiring Black assistants. And while it’s good that four of his quality control coaches are Black, that only means something if they are promoted when an opportunity arises. That didn’t happen a few months ago.

After Black wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted was surprisingly fired, LaFleur replaced him with Jason Vrable, a white offensive assistant last season. LaFleur could’ve given the job to Black quality control coach Kevin Koger, who coached receivers in college. Again, I’m in no way implying that race played a part in this decision. LaFleur obviously felt Vrable was the right choice. That said, the optics aren’t the best when you replace a Black coach with a white coach at a position where 90% of the players on the roster are Black.

The Packers aren’t stepping up now, nor have they at any point this century. Since Black head coach Ray Rhodes was fired along with Black offensive coordinator Sherm Lewis and Black defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas in 1999, the team has employed one Black coordinator. Edgar Bennett was in charge of the offense from 2015 to 2017. That’s very troubling, especially when you consider some of the coordinators during the past two decades were named Tom Rossley, Ed Donatell, Bob Slowik, Frank Novak, Jeff Jagodzinski, Mike Stock, John Bonamego, Bob Sanders, Shawn Slocum, Tom Clements, and Ron Zook.

This brings us back to Arians. Do you think every Black coach he hired was the very best available coach, or do you think it was extremely important for him to give an opportunity to a deserving Black coach? My guess is the latter, and until more head coaches take that view, the problem surrounding Black coaches isn’t going to go away. The country is finally waking up to racial inequality. It’s time for the NFL to do the same.

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  1. Really interesting article. I read about this issue a lot but have rarely seen the metrics of how it breaks down.

    Ariens also has females on his coaching staff if I’m not mistaken? Gotta applaud his intentionality in putting together a staff based off ability and not color/gender.

  2. Thanks. I put a lot of time and effort into this story. I hope a lot of people read it.

  3. It’s a slippery slope Micheal when you start playing the race card over merit. Mike Holmgren had Sherm Lewis and Ray Rhoades, both black, as his coordinators when we won the SB. And while Sherm Lewis never got his shot, Ray Rhoades did, twice, and he was awful. Ron Wolf will tell you hiring Rhoades over Andy Reid was one of his biggest mistakes as GM. You can’t tell me with Reid as HC, and Favre and Ahman Green, we wouldn’t have won at least one SB in the early 2000’s. But hey, we were politically correct so there’s that.

    Ted Thompson’s right hand man was Reggie McKenzie. A black man. Who got his shot as GM and flamed out. I had no idea Alvis Whitted was black anymore than I knew his replacement was white. But I do know the WR group underachieved last year and something had to give. Fans want wins. We don’t care about color.

    While it’s true 70% of the NFL is black. That certainly wasn’t the case when Lombardi, Landry, Shula, and Noll started coaching. Lombardi, to his credit, always taught tolerance. The 1970 Washington Redskins (am I allowed to say that?) had at least three prominent players and a GM that was gay. The conservative Lombardi wouldn’t allow hazing or prejudice because of it.

    You and I Micheal are old dogs at this. When we were kids there were no black QB in the NFL. I can think of Doug Williams and that’s it. Now they’re everywhere. In fact, our next QB will be black and no one cares. Just like no one cares Aaron Rodgers is gay and Danica Patrick is his beard as has been rumored.

    NFL owners and their fans want wins. That means talented players and coaches no matter what color. Talent should always trump quotas.

  4. No one cares that Aaron Rodgers is gay because nobody believes it. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

  5. I dunno about that Paul. I certainly wouldn’t bet the farm. I think there’s plenty of people who think that. Aaron Rodgers “relationship “ with Kevin Lanflisi lasted longer than either relationship with Olivia Munn or Danica Patrick. And when Rodgers did break up with him, Lanflisi acted like a woman scorned. Explain to me why Aaron Rodgers had a male roommate? They’re not in college, they’re not practice squad players, rent is cheap in Green Bay. Rodgers is a multimillionaire. He didn’t need to save a few bucks in rent money.

    Let me ask you this Paul. When is the last time you and one of your buddies went out for a night on the town wearing matching outfits? Yeah, straight guys just don’t do that. Former and current teammates have said they think Rodgers is gay.

    All I know is if I’m as young, good looking, and rich as Aaron Rodgers. I go the Tom Brady route and I’m slaying hot super models. Not homely D list starlets or has been, never was, NASCAR drivers. Proclaiming how I’ve found my soulmate and then 6 months later calling things off.

    We do agree Paul on the most important aspect here. It just doesn’t matter one way or the other.

  6. Really appreciate this article, Mike. So important that you’re thinking and talking about these things, especially in this crucial racial moment.

  7. Thanks, Eric. I put a lot of effort into this, and it’s nice to get some positive feedback.


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Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.
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