The NFL’s ratio of black QBs to black head coaches is completely wrong

Jalen Hurts

Jalen Hurts
Photography: AP

Marlin Briscoe is smiling in heaven. Doug Williams probably has a big grin on his face. The first black starting quarterback in NFL history — Briscoe — and the first black quarterback to start and win Super Bowl MVP — Williams — are giants on the shoulders of Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts. And between Rihanna’s halftime performance and the fact that we’re about to watch history being made two black quarterbacks take center stage in sports’ biggest game — you could argue it’s fate, given that it’s all set to take place during Black History Month.

But don’t let this moment distract you from the fact that black coaches are still getting raw offers at a time when black running backs are elevated like never before. Two things can be true at the same time, which is why this moment is so joyful and yet so infuriating.

Sixteen years after we watched Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy make history as the first two black head coaches to appear in the Super Bowl, we’re watching Mahomes and Hurts do it for black quarterbacks. But since that day in February 2007, things seemed to fall apart for black coaches as they improved for black quarterbacks.

Eleven black backs started 1st week. Compare that to the three black coaches who had jobs when the season started — Mike McDaniel doesn’t count because he chose to identify as a human being with a black daddy.

When Lovie Smith got fired in Houston, three became two. And while we wait for the remaining jobs to materialize, there is no record or sense that anything will be done in the next few weeks to greatly improve these dismal numbers. We’re at a point where the league, owners and fans are fine with having a Negro as their quarterback – but not their coach.

Over the years, the trajectory of the Black Quarterback has steadily grown in a way that it didn’t happen to black coaches. By the time we get to kickoff, that will mean eight black quarterbacks have started in the Super Bowl. It is a direct result of evolution over the years. What Fritz Pollard, Briscoe and Williams started led to Michael Vick being the first black quarterback selected No. 1 and Steve McNair becoming the first black quarterback to win the MVP — followed by Mahomes and Lamar Jackson.

Progress on the field, not on the sideline

However, this type of progress is not something we have seen with black coaches. At about this point last year, there were only two black head coaches in the league – Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh and David Culley in Houston. As we know, Culley would be fired by the Texans after one season and replaced by Smith, another black coach to be fired after a year on the job. Brian Flores’ collective action (joined by Ray Horton and Steve Wilks) still hovers over the league. But you wouldn’t know it from the fact that Wilks couldn’t keep his temporary tag – which is a death sentence for black coaches — with the Carolina Panthers despite doing a great job.

In 2000, Dennis Green (Minnesota) and Dungy (Tampa) were the only ones two black full-time head coaches in the NFL. Twenty-three years later, we are in the same place, but worse. The XFL is just weeks away from restarting theirs as well the eight-team league already has four black head coaches. It’s a disturbing statistic that embodies just how big this problem is, despite what Todd Bowles thinks.

“I think the minute you guys stop making a big deal about it, everybody will too,” one of the league’s two black coaches had the nerve to say earlier in the season.

In less than two weeks, the majority-black league will make history when two black quarterbacks play in a game that will feature pregame and halftime entertainment from black performers in a month dedicated to recognizing the contributions black people have made to this country. It will be a joyful occasion.

However, while you are enjoying the game, please ask one question of the company you will be making that day. “If the NFL, America and the world can accept this black, then why not accept black coaches?” And while you wait for people to answer that question, realize that “The end of racism” was etched on the field all season.

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