Thirty years ago, Art Shell was hired to coach the Oakland Raiders, breaking down the color barrier and forever making him the first black head coach in the National Football League. Shell was actually hired to lead the Raiders twice, the first time lasting from 1989-1994, and then spending a season as head coach in 2006, with each tenure ending by being fired.
Since that historic hire three decades ago, a total of 22 black head coaches have gone on to hold NFL head coaching jobs. Before the Rooney Rule it was a major uphill battle for minority candidates to even be a part of the interview process, much less actually land the job. The Rooney Rule was introduced in 2003 into ensure that ethnic-minorities are interviewed for head coaching and senior football operations positions in the league. In the 14 seasons before the Rooney Rule, the league had five black head coaches. In the 15 years that have followed 18 minority coaches (17 of them black) have led NFL franchises.
While most people firmly believe that the Rooney Rule still doesn't provide the same opportunities to minorities that it does to white coaches, there's another layer to this story that doesn't get talked about enough.
That leads me to this tweet I recently saw.
That's pretty astonishing.
Looking back at the 22 black coaches who have held NFL head coaching jobs, or interim head coaching jobs, since the appointment of coach Shell, just NINE were hired a second time (not counting those that served in an interim head coaching capacity for any length of time).
Only about one-third of black head coaches have been given a second chance to lead an NFL team again on a full-time basis (excluding interim stints).
- Hue Jackson (8-8 with the Raiders and 3-36 with the Browns)
- Jim Caldwell (26-22 with the Colts and 36-28 with the Lions)
- Romeo Crennel (24-40 with the Browns and 4-15 with the Chiefs)
- Lovie Smith (81-63 with the Bears and 8-24 with the Bucs)
- Herm Edwards (39-41 with the Jets and 15-33 with the Chiefs)
- Tony Dungy (54-42 with the Bucs and 85-27 with the Colts)
- Ray Rhodes (29-34 with the Eagles and 8-8 with the Packers)
- Dennis Green (97-62 with the Vikings and 16-32 with the Cardinals)
- Art Shell (Raiders x2 - 54-48 in his first stint, and 2-4 in his second)
Of those five, six left their first job with winning records, while Crennel, Edwards, and Rhodes were the three that landed second opportunities despite a losing record in their first stop.
Obviously, two coaches on that list have gone on to land opportunities to lead college programs after their second NFL head coaching stint; Smith at Illinois and Edwards at Arizona State.
The coaches who didn't, or have yet to receive a second NFL opportunity?
- Marvin Lewis (Bengals: 2003-18) - 131-129 overall
- (i) Terry Robiskie (Redskins: 2000, Browns: 2004) - 1-2 with Redskins, 1-4 with Browns
- (i) Emmitt Thomas (Falcons: 2007) - 1-3 as interim HC
- Mike Singletary (49ers: 2008-10) - 18-22 overall
- Raheem Morris (Bucs: 2009-11) - 17-31 overall
- (i) Perry Fewell (Bills: 2009) - 3-4 as interim
- Leslie Frazier (Vikings: 2010-13) - 21-32 overall
- (i) Eric Studesville (Broncos: 2010) - 1-3 overall
- Todd Bowles (Jets: 2015-18) - 24-40 overall
- Vance Joseph (Broncos: 2017-18) - 11-21 overall
- Steve Wilks (Cardinals: 2018) - 3-13
(This list excludes Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who was hired in 2007 and is still employed by the team.)
Sure, you could make the argument that none of those records are over .500, but neither did the following current NFL white head coaches: Jets head coach Adam Gase (23-25 with the Dolphins), Giants head coach Pat Shurmur (15-34 with the Browns), or Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone (31-35 with the Bills). Not to mention the guys who were named to head coaching jobs without any head coaching experience at all this past hiring cycle.
Only one black head coach has went from leading a team strictly as an interim head coach to landing a full-time head coaching job at the NFL. Anthony Lynn, heading into his third season as the Chargers head coach, went 0-1 as an interim coach of the Bills in 2016, and after being hired by the Chargers has gone 9-7 and 12-4 in his first two seasons.
Of that list, there are surely guys like Marvin Lewis (and perhaps a few others) that will get another chance at leading an NFL team, provided it's something they still have a passion for doing.
As fans and coaches, as we continue to evaluate head coaching hires at both the college and NFL level, black head coaches being overlooked for second opportunities is another important angle in the ongoing conversation we should definitely keep in mind.
Sean Payton shared his passionate thoughts on the NFL's minority head coach problem back in late March to ensure that it stays a topic that remains at the forefront of hiring decisions, and it remains an important issue that we need to continue to shed light on.