By Mike Freeman | National NFL Insider
January 17, 2013 9:51 pm ET
Bruce Arians was hired by the Arizona Cardinals to be their next head coach. That means out of the eight head coaching hires, none was a candidate of color.
None. Not one. 0-fer-black.
In effect, what NFL owners and general managers of those teams said was this: No minority candidate was good enough to hire for one-quarter of the head coaching jobs in the NFL.
This is a topic that evokes great emotion and conversation from many in and out of the sport — sometimes that conversation is civilized, sometimes it’s ugly and bigoted. I can tell you there is great outrage among the black assistant coaches I spoke to on Thursday night. I mean, extreme anger.
We can debate the Rooney Rule or that there is a lack of minority assistants in key offensive coordinator positions. That last fact is pointed to often as a reason for the dearth of hires this NFL cycle — or college cycle for that matter, which was equally inexcusable.
The real reason for the problem can be exemplified with the Arians hire. The real reason is coaches of color have still not broken into, in significant numbers, the NFL’s old-boy network. They are, to many owners and others in the NFL, outsiders. Until that changes, the numbers will remain somewhat bleak.
This is what I mean. Arians was fired by the Pittsburgh Steelers — some reports said Arians retired, others said his contract was not renewed. The truth is he was let go by the team.
After that, Chuck Pagano, coach of the Indianapolis Colts, hired Arians to be his offensive coordinator. Pagano and Arians are close friends.
When Pagano fell ill, Arians became the interim coach.
And that sequence, more than anything, illustrates the biggest reason for the problem. There are almost no black coaches who could get fired from a nice position (or retire or not have his contract renewed) and then have a close enough friend as a head coach who could immediately give him the same nice position.
Most black assistants don’t have those types of connections. They are not part of that network. They also don’t quickly get that same type of chance.
This is not the case all the time. There are exceptions, but in many instances this is what happens.
So here we are, 0-fer-black, and having the same discussion we’ve had for decades. Things have definitely gotten better. No question, but this 0-fer shows how far we have to go.