The NFL has a diversity problem. The league is failing to identify and develop a management work force – i.e. coaches and general managers – that looks remotely representative of the men who make up the bulk of the rosters. And the worst part is, things are trending in the wrong direction.
With another wild NFL coaching cycle set to begin, several of the league's already low number of African American head coaches and execs are about to be let go, or, in the case of Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome, retire. Hue Jackson was already fired, Todd Bowles, Vance Joseph and Steve Wilks are on their way out, and Marvin Lewis is going to have to sort out his future with Bengals owner Mike Brown very soon. Bowles may get other head coaching opportunities to pursue, and Lewis could, as well – Jackson could replace Lewis in Cincy – and Jim Caldwell is already interviewing again after being let go by Detroit a year ago despite a winning season.
But there is a dearth of diverse candidates, once again, and not much seems to be done about it. Eric Bieniemy of the Chiefs, Brian Flores of the Patriots and Kris Richard of the Cowboys will be interviewing for jobs, for sure, but the NFL continues to have almost no African American play callers on the offensive side of the ball; and when owners seem primarily to want to hire quarterback gurus/play callers, well, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the GM side, there has been a purge of African American executives in recent years – Jerry Reese, Doug Whaley, Sashi Brown and Ray Farmer have been let go, and now Newsome is set to retire – without an obvious movement toward replenishing the pipeline with candidates of diverse backgrounds. Jimmy Raye III (Detroit), Alonzo Highsmith (Cleveland), Will McClay (Dallas) and Omar Khan (Pittsburgh) are all more than worthy of consideration for top jobs, but the ranks of diversity in front offices is shrinking.
A study done recently by the NFL league office analyzed the number of men with diverse backgrounds currently staffing top personnel positions and, after Newsome retires, only five are currently in GM, vice president or director of player personnel roles, and only roughly 20 such men are currently in front office executive positions. In a league of 32 teams. With each team employing a general manager, player personnel director, college scouting director and pro personnel director (or some variation of those four titles).
So, yeah, it should come as no big shock that the number of coaches and GMs is dwindling with so little seemingly being done at the lower levels of organization to train and cultivate and promote more of these men up the personnel ladder. And it is going to take more than expanding the Rooney Rule to truly alter the hiring processes of these clubs. Regardless of the reasons or causes or excuses, things are not changing for the better, and at some point perhaps the folks on Park Ave. at the league headquarters ought to think long and hard about more diversity at the ownership level, where there is nothing remotely close to racial diversity.
Because as long as largely older, rich white guys keep hiring almost exclusively men who look roughly like them for their top football positions, there will remain a massive chasm between what the locker room looks like and what the board rooms look like.
Bortles' days as a starter likely over
Who is going to sign Blake Bortles? I mean, someone will, for a mere fraction of what he has been making, but his days as a starter have to be over. He threw for 29 yards in the first half and seemed to have trouble holding on to the football. The Jaguars are in need of a total overhaul. Ownership remains averse to facing that uncomfortable reality, as evidenced by Shad Khan's statement supporting Tom Coughlin and head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell, but it's going to take one helluva offseason to bounce back, and this division is no longer a pushover.
Despite loss, WRs give Packers hope
Brutal way for an ugly Packers season to end, and their future is quite uncertain. But it's not all doom and gloom there. The young receivers have been a rare bright spot. Davante Adams had a monster year. Two late-round picks, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, combined for over 1000 yards and both are in the top 15 of all rookie receivers in yardage. Geronimo Allison was having a breakout season before getting hurt and Jake Kumerow flashed late after being released by four other teams in his career.
Kafka soon to be a hot coach
By this time next year, the NFL is going to be buzzing about Mike Kafka. Yeah, he just retired as a player a few years ago and has only been on Andy Reid's staff in Kansas City briefly. But he gets it, Reid develops coaches like few others and at least one NFL team would like to talk to Kafka about its head coaching opening. Kafka, 31, is in his first year as the Chiefs' quarterback coach, but he earned major kudos in 2017, in a quality control role, working with Patrick Mahomes as scout team QB. If Bieniemy departs for a head coaching job and Kafka takes over as Reid's OC, trust me, he won't be in K.C. for long.
More from Week 17
- I will never understand how and why Eii Manning started all 16 games this season. Of course, the fact that he sat for one game in Oakland last year looks even more baffling than ever, in hindsight. How many more lost seasons will he be at the helm for? At least 2019. Good luck with that … Even if Adam Gase survives, I can't fathom Stephen Ross paying any more money to Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins need a new plan at QB, ASAP, regardless of who is at the helm. ...
- Deshaun Watson takes too many hits, man. Sixty sacks in a season, coming off an ACL tear, combined with all the shots he takes while running the ball? That equation is going to have to change in 2019. Keep an eye on J.J. Watt's play in the postseason, too. He kept getting his arm taped after it was put in a sling-type apparatus and didn't appear to be himself after being in discomfort in the first half Sunday …
- The 49ers are going to take a leap forward in 2019, I believe. They have been a tough team to play and their defensive backs coach, Jeff Hafley, should get some sniffs for defensive coordinator jobs. … Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken is going to be in serious demand these next few weeks. A slew of head coaches are eyeing him as the top OC available, and he may get opportunities to interview for head coaching jobs, himself …