Black Quarterbacks and Coaches Need Opportunity

Black NFL quarterbacks

Miami Times photo illustration

by Jenny Ziegler
Out with the old and in with the new is generally the aspiring mindset that accompanies a new year.

But in the NFL, it has been some of the same old, same old.

The league may be finally coming around to a collective enlightened way of thinking on the quarterback front.

In 2019, we saw a surge of Black quarterbacks. Some of their opportunities came by way of backup to next-man-up for starting roles. And some were “the man” from jump street – the great Black hope in the form of someone new, dynamic, and exciting. Owners were looking for a guy with whom they could ride or die – someone they could hang their teams’ Super Bowl dreams on. However it happened that they came by their opportunities, they are having success.

Tyrod Taylor of the Buffalo Bills, Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys, Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens, Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Deshaun Watson of the Texans, Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals, and Dwayne Haskins of the Washington Redskins all made us raise our fist in Black pride.

Ravens’ Lamar Jackson is having such a breakout season, that more teams are secretly hoping to find their Black diamond in the rough.

Four of the African American signal callers made it to the post season.

So why the shift?

They are seeing the opportunities paying dividends.

It’s 2020, 100 years into the league’s existence and Warren Moon is the only Black quarterback in the Hall of Fame, but the next one could very well come from among this current crop of quarterbacks.

Records are being broken and history is being made.

Moon’s claim to that fame is all because of a little thing called opportunity.

At the end of the day, winning will make some folks go color blind.

Watch out NFL. They say that once you go Black, you’ll never go back.

Unfortunately, the fate of the Black head coaches has a ways to go to catch up with the success of the Black quarterback.

The opportunities have been few and far in between. And when they have come, they have come with a short leash.

Currently, Ron Rivera has been the only minority head coach hiring since the end of the regular season. He is one of the four minority head coaches in the NFL. The others include Steelers’ Mike Tomlin, Chargers Anthony Lynn and Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins.

That brings us right back to the conversation of opportunity.

And begs the question, which came first? Success or opportunity?

Opportunity breeds success and then success breeds more opportunities and more success. And if you never get the opportunity – you will never be successful.

The NFL has the Rooney Rule policy to create some of that elusive opportunity. The rule requires league teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. Though you could make the argument that is tantamount to affirmative action, it still requires actual action.

Bringing Black coaches in for interviews with no real intention of considering them for the job is just going through the motions. The rule has yet to prove that it is more than just pacification.

Marvin Lewis, one of the most recent Black coaches to be interviewed for a head coaching position on this go-around of head coaching vacancies and not get hired, has said he is “fine” with the interview process.

Lewis was quoted as saying to ESPN, “This is somebody’s business; this is somebody’s franchise and nobody’s going to tell them who to hire.”

Sure, you right. Some of these owners are stubborn to a fault.

Oregon law has its college football version of the Rooney Rule on hiring minority candidates and it has given some Black coaches opportunities – like Willie Taggart, who has since moved on to Florida Atlantic University.

But do we really want laws requiring minorities to be hired or do really just want legitimate opportunities? Everyone wants to be wanted.

Lewis did say that something has to change to get minorities more opportunities.

Uncle Luther “Luke” Campbell, head coach of Miami Edison Senior High School, blames the plight of the African American head coaches on the players.

“It’s the players!” He rants on his Instagram account that the “players need to play harder for their coaches.”

He thinks they need to run through the wall for their Black coach and put their talent where their kneeling is.

And in a league that is over 75% Black, he says that “black players need to demand African American head coaches. They need to hire Black agents to represent their interests.” He says they also need to hire Black accountants and financial advisor to make these owners respect their demands when they come to the table.

There is strength in numbers, especially when those numbers look alike.

There really is no easy fix to this dilemma, but again it is all about the O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y.

If what you have been doing still hasn’t gotten you to a Super Bowl, then it is time to try something new. Try someone new and quit recycling the same good-old-boy head coaches.

The next head coaching guru could be Black and he is just waiting for an opportunity.

This article originally appeared in The Miami Times

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