It is one of the most coveted, demanding jobs in all of sports: NFL head coach. And despite the carousel of quick hirings and firings across the league, Black candidates spent years being passed over — if they were considered at all.
Raheem Morris, the newly installed head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, said, "I do understand the importance of being the first Black coach in Atlanta history without an interim tag. I understand the importance of that for us."
When the 2024 season kicks off, the NFL is set to have the most diverse slate of head coaches in the league's history. There will be nine minority head coaches across the league's 32 teams.
Adrien Brouchet is the director of the The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport and the author of the annual "Racial and Gender Report Card."
"Is it catch-up? Of course it is. But let's acknowledge what the NFL has done," Brouchet said.
Brouchet credits NFL initiatives like the Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams to "interview at least two minority candidates" for any open head coaching slot, with some of the change.
Brouchet added, "If we're going to start with the NFL, I think you have to start with the Rooney Rule. It has been tremendous, in terms of shining a light on. I'm not saying it's always worked, but it has always kept it at the forefront."
In 2022, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a federal lawsuit against the NFL alleging it is "rife with racism," operated "much like a plantation" and claimed interviews with Black coaches are "only being done to comply with the Rooney Rule." At the time there was only one Black head coach in the NFL.
Flores is now the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings.
"He was calling out an injustice as he saw it and hoping to make the NFL a better place. When Brian Flores got out of Miami and filed a lawsuit, you know, most might have looked at him as damaged goods and most might not have touched him — most did not touch him. But Mike Tomlin did and that helped him parlay that job into another defensive coordinator job here in Minnesota," said Reggie Wilson, sports director for KARE 11 in Minneapolis.
All four Black head coaches in the NFL this season made the playoffs — which Brouchet says played an incredibly important role in this slate of new hires.
"It matters. We don't just want Black head coaches in the NFL, we want successful Black head coaches in the NFL," Brouchet said.
The NFL also managed to record minority numbers among the league's assistant coaches, general managers, team vice presidents and professional staff.
Trending stories at Scrippsnews.com