Are you helping yourself or are you helping them? That’s what every Black man in the NFL must ask themselves before accepting an interview for a head coaching position. The answer to the question is a personal one that affects many — just look at David Shaw.
When ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Los Angeles Chargers “completed an interview with David Shaw for their head coaching job. They’re now in compliance with the Rooney Rule,” Twitter (now known as X) exploded given the optics of the situation. A white reporter whose long been accused of carrying the league’s water was alerting fans that a Black head-coaching candidate who many — Black and white — feel doesn’t have a shot at landing one of these vacancies took an interview that clears the Chargers of any shadiness, given that they’re probably going to hire the white coach of their choosing.
Every year around this time it’s the same thing. Multiple open positions. Very few, if any, Black hires despite the number of minorities that were interviewed per the Rooney Rule. And once the positions are filled, at some point, league commissioner Roger Goodell offers a comment.
“But when you say frustration, I’m probably always frustrated by the pace of progress. Right?” Goodell said back in October after owners voted to push back in-person interviews until after the divisional round of the playoffs. “It’s never enough for yours truly. So, we obviously know we have work to do here, and the clubs are very focused on this, and it has to be a sustainable change, and I think that’s where the ownership is.”
Schefter would go on to report that Shaw “has long been a target of NFL teams” and that “in back-to-back years, he has been interviewed for the Broncos and Chargers head coaching jobs.” The Titans also interviewed Shaw. In two years, a Black “candidate” who didn’t coach at all in 2023 has had at least three interviews.
The math isn’t “mathing.”
Despite Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the league for its “alleged” hiring practices — which will be going to court sooner than later — there is more than enough evidence to see the games that owners play when it comes to the Rooney Rule, especially in a league that features a team (Houston Texans) that hired and fired Black coaches (David Culley and Lovie Smith) in back-to-back seasons.
The fact that the Rooney Rule still exists is proof of an ongoing problem and the diagnosis gets worse when you read details — like how Major League Soccer has a better Rooney Rule than the league that created it. In 2021, MLS updated their version of the rule by requiring that two or more non-white candidates that are Black/African American be part of the finalist pool for open positions and that organizations have to bring in candidates with comparable experiences/resumes so that teams can’t bring in a Black assistant coach on a lower tier just to fulfill their quota. That same year the NFL updated the Rooney Rule by expanding it “to require teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for general manager/executive of football operations positions, and all coordinator roles.”
“There is a commitment from across the organization to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive league, one that is reflective of who it is that we say we want to be,” Sola Winley, MLS’ executive vice president, and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer told ESPN at the time.
The hoops that the NFL continuously jumps through in the name of fake diversity probably make Simone Biles jealous. It’s beyond laughable, as the NFL’s diversity coaching fellowship is named after a white man — Bill Walsh. This league can’t be taken seriously when it comes to situations like this. Because if they were actually “frustrated” as Goodell said, the leader of NFL Africa wouldn’t be a white guy from Australia named Brett.
As of Tuesday morning, only two of the eight head coaching vacancies have been filled. Antonio Pierce in Las Vegas and Jerod Mayo in New England. Both coaches are Black, but their hirings came with caveats — Pierce was the interim in Vegas and Mayo had a succession clause in his contract. Men like Eric Bieniemy and Shaw haven’t had that “luxury.” In 2024, the plight of Black coaches isn’t just about the lack of opportunities and unfairness that comes along with trying to make it in the NFL, it’s also about deciphering if you’re a candidate or part of a quota.