When Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a lawsuit against the NFL and various teams over discriminatory practices, it reactivated a long-running discussion about the way the league has failed to create an environment that increases the number of Black head coaches despite the Rooney Rule.
As of right now, there are just three Black head coaches in the NFL; Tampa Bay’s Todd Bowles, Houston’s Lovie Smith, and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin. That also happens to be the same number as in 2003, when the NFL enacted the Rooney Rule. Since then, the number of Black head coaches has topped out at seven in a season but hasn’t been above three at a time since 2018.
The Washington Post kicked off an editorial series about the plight of Black coaches in the NFL on Wednesday. While most of the people they spoke with were people of color, specifically Black football coaches, former NFL head coach Bill Parcells provided some interesting insight into why NFL owners haven’t done more to balance the coaching field.
“The owners of these teams predominantly grew up in different environments,” Parcells told the Post. “I don’t want to say their exposure isn’t too good, but really that’s probably the truth.”
Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants and went to a third with the New England Patriots, is often credited for his track record with Black assistant coaches, so his opinion carries more weight than your usual white head coach. The Hall of Fame coach told the Post that he always viewed his hires based on merit, not skin color.
“If you can help, come on in. If you can’t, get out of here,” said Parcells.
Parcell’s coaching tree includes Romeo Crennel, who became head coach of the Cleveland Browns, and Anthony Lynn, who became head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. It also includes Maurice Carthon, who was an assistant for 19 NFL seasons, becoming offensive coordinator for three different teams. He claimed in the article that he once interviewed with the then-Oakland Raiders and was told by Raiders senior personnel executive Michael Lombardi that “‘You know, you’re not going to get this job,’” in regards to the notion that he was interviewed just to satisfy the Rooney Rule.