Why is there a lack of NFL Black head coach/general manager combinations?

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Super Bowl LVI is drawing closer and closer. While the Super Bowl gets and deserves most of the attention related to the National Football League, the NFL’s coaching carousel has been spinning rapidly as of late. The Chicago Bears hired Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as their new head coach while the Denver Broncos tabbed Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett for their open head coach position. The hiring of Eberflus and Hackett, respectively, represent two of the nine NFL head coaching positions that will be filled following the 2021 NFL season. Eberflus was hired by new Bears general manager Ryan Poles, who joined new Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, as Black men hired in 2022 to one of the highest executive positions in an NFL organization.

While there is currently only one NFL Black head coach in Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, there are now seven Black general managers in Miami’s Chris Grier, Detroit’s Brad Holmes, Washington’s Martin Mayhew, Atlanta’s Terry Fontenot, Cleveland’s Andrew Berry, Poles and Adofo-Mensah. Among these seven Black general managers, only one, Grier, hired a Black man to be the head coach of the organization they are responsible for. Is there a reason for the lack of NFL Black head coach/general manager duos in recent NFL history?

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah ryan poles

The NFL’s issues regarding hiring Black men as head coaches has been covered extensively. There have been discussions, debates, and adjustments to the “Rooney Rule” involving interviewing minority candidates for head coaching and executive NFL positions. It should always be emphasized that the underlying statement made by the NFL in a league where about 57 percent of the players are Black that it is “difficult” and “challenging” to find viable Black candidates to become head coaches after their playing careers are over. The annually low numbers of Black head coaches in the NFL contrast the high numbers of Black players in the NFL which scream out, “You are good enough to play in the NFL but not good enough to lead an NFL organization or team”. The NFL currently has zero Black head coach/general manager duos which contrasts another popular professional sports league where the talent is predominantly Black, the NBA.

In the past 20 years in the NFL, there hasn’t been many times when an NFL organization has entrusted two Black men to its most important leadership positions of head coach and general manager. Historically, some of the most successful Black head coaches in the NFL like Tony Dungy, Dennis Green, and now Mike Tomlin, have only had white general managers making personnel decisions in concert with their head coaching expertise. Arguably the best general manager in NFL history is a Black man, former Baltimore Ravens front office executive Ozzie Newsome, who was also the NFL’s first Black general manager in 2002 and Newsome never hired a Black head coach during his tenure.

It is great that since Newsome broke through in 2002, Black men like Andrew Berry, Brad Holmes, and Terry Fontenot are getting the opportunity to make critically important personnel decisions for NFL organizations. Those men should definitely choose the best head coaching candidate and the head coaching candidate they are most connect with but it is curious that those choices often aren’t Black men. The now defunct Brian Flores and Chris Grier pairing for the Miami Dolphins had its ups and downs and ended with some issues but white head coaches and white general managers experience tension all the time. 2022 has one of the deepest pools of Black head coaching candidates in NFL history with men like Jim Caldwell, Brian Flores, Byron Leftwich, Eric Bieniemy, Raheem Morris, and Todd Bowles all have accomplished quality work as NFL coordinators or head coaches. It will be interesting to see if one of them pairs up with Minnesota’s Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to make some history in a productive way.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines