Five of the NFL’s seven African-American head coaches were fired on December 31st. Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks was fired after just one season. The Cardinals’ record was 3-13 – the worst record in the league – but over the last 18 years, there have only been ten head coaches who were fired after only one year. Three of them were African-American.
This NFL season the following Black head coaches were fired: Marvin Lewis (Bengals, 6-19), Vance Joseph (Broncos, 6-10), Todd Bowles (Jets, 4-12), Hue Jackson (Browns, 7-8) and Steve Wilks (Cardinals, 3-13).
The firings mean there are now only two Black head coaches in the NFL: Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn and Steelers longtime head coach Mike Tomlin.
The firing of Wilks in Arizona after only one season won particular attention. In the NFL, many coaches fail in their first year yet remain employed. Though the NFL has made great improvements in hiring Black head coaches over the last twenty years as the result of the Rooney Rule, the recent firings were sobering. The Rooney Rule mandates that NFL teams interview at last one minority candidate before making their final hiring decision.
Professional football is dominated by African-American players, as over 70 percent of them are African-American. Typically, players go on to become coaches but the overwhelming numbers on the field have yet to surface among the coaching ranks in the NFL. Many see the recent firings as ironic progress: There was a time when the firing of five African-American coaches would have been inconceivable because there were none on the sidelines. However, thirty percent of NFL coaches were Black before the firings this season.
The regular season in the NFL ended on December 30. As more changes are made over the off season there is likely to be more Black head coaches added. But for now, the debate on the numbers will focus on the recent firing and whether those dismissed will find employment elsewhere for 2019.
By Lauren Victoria Burke
NNPA Newswire Correspondent