With all the controversy surrounding the NFL and its alleged efforts at diversifying head coaching around the professional football league, it’s worth putting things in their proper perspective for folks who may be shrugging and wondering what the big deal is.
After all, they may be musing, isn’t the NFL disproportionately made up of Black players? Must Black folks be head coaches too, critics might be wondering?
Of course, that type of logic is counterproductive and completely beside the point, what with the new racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Black head coach and alleging that the NFL’s ownership is colluding to keep teams’ head coaches as white as possible.
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Brian Flores, who used to be head coach of the Miami Dolphins, filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL claiming there is racial discrimination in the hiring process. Specifically, Flores claims he’s had multiple incidents of racial discrimination that involved several teams, as well as coaches and executives around the league.
In the suit, Flores cites text messages from New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, who said he believed he was contacting Brian Daboll, another coach interviewing for the New York Giants head coaching position. In the text message, Belichick confirmed Daboll had already secured the job, but Flores had not yet interviewed for the position. This revelation meant Flores’ upcoming interview with the Giants was a sham because they had already hired their next head coach, who is not Black.
The fact is that Flores’ claims are hardly unique and help bolster critics’ suspicions that the NFL is intentionally trying to keep its head coaching ranks as white as possible despite the league’s so-called Rooney Rule, a policy that requires teams to interview at least one “diverse” candidate when looking to hire new coaches. The rule was expanded in 2009 to include general managers as well as other front-office positions.
To be sure, the NFL has had more than 500 head coaches over the course of more than a century of competition. Just 24 of them have been Black.
For perspective’s sake, the NFL entered Black History Month 2022 with just one single Black head coach despite its vow a decade earlier to increase diversity among its head and assistant coaches.
The league has even gone to such drastic measures as partnering with rap legend JAY Z in the name of “entertainment and social justice” as a way to help accomplish its evasive mission.
But so far, nothing has really worked.
Is it because the NFL is an organization akin to “slavery,” like blacklisted free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick said after he was effectively excommunicated from the league following his silent kneeling protest to demonstrate against the police brutality of Black people?
That certainly lines up with what Flores’ lawsuit is alleging.
Flores still has upcoming interviews for head coaching positions with at least two other teams, so, considering the public relations fiasco that his lawsuit is, chances are that pressure will result in him being hired. But, if history is any indication — and it is — that’s far from a guarantee. Either way, Flores. said his lawsuit will not be deterred regardless of whether he is or isn’t an NFL head coach next season.
In the meantime, keep reading to get familiar with the dozens of Black people who have worked as NFL head coaches in the league’s more than 100-year history.
1. Fritz Pollard
Fritz Pollard became the first Black head coach in NFL history after the Akron Pros appointed him as co-coach in 1921.
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, “During his pro football career the two-time All-America played and sometimes coached for four different NFL teams, the Pros/Indians (1920-21/1925-26), the Milwaukee Badgers (1922), the Hammond Pros (1923, 1925), and the Providence Steam Roller (1925).”
It also added: “In 1928, Pollard organized and coached the Chicago Black Hawks, an all-African American professional team based in the Windy City.”
2. Art ShellSource:Getty
Art Shell became head coach of the then-Los Angeles Raiders in 1988, a job he held until 1994, after the franchise moved to Oakland, according to the Raiders’ website.
3. Dennis GreenSource:Getty
Dennis Greeen “was the Vikings Head Coach from 1992 to 2001, and his 97 regular-season wins rank second in franchise history. His teams won division titles four times and advanced to NFC Championship Games after the 1998 and 2000 seasons,” the team wrote on its website. “Green made the playoffs in eight of 10 seasons in Minnesota, with his most memorable campaign coming in 1998. The Vikings went 15-1 that season and racked up 556 points, which set an NFL record at the time.”
4. Ray RhodesSource:Getty
Ray Rhodes coached in various NFL capacities for nearly 40 years, including a five-year run as head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and later with the Green Bay Packers.
“During his entire head coaching career, his two teams combined for a record of 37-42-1 across five seasons including going 1-2-0 in the playoffs,” according to the Pro Football History website.
5. Tony DungySource:Getty
Tony Dungy has been coaching in the NFL for more than 40 years, including when he landed his first head coaching gig in 1996 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which he led for 13 seasons. and over the next 13 seasons, which included seven years with the Indianapolis Colts, he racked up 148 total victories.
Dungy later became the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
In all, Dungy has a head coaching record of 148-79-0 and won the regular season games he coached at a rate of nearly 70%, according to the pro football hall of fame website.
6. Herman EdwardsSource:Getty
Herman “Herm” Edwards, largely seen as a mentor to many current and former NFL players, coached the New York Jets from 2001-2005 and the Kansas City Chiefs from 2006 to 2008, according to the Pro Football Reference website.
7. Marvin LewisSource:HBO
Marvin Lewis, who coached the Cincinnati Bengals for 16 seasons from 2003 to 2018, is among the current and former NFL coaches who have denounced the league for racial injustices and told NBC Sports that Black coaches have been getting “sham” interviews — like those alleged by Brian Flores — for years.
8. Lovie SmithSource:Getty
Lovie Smith was a head coach with the Chicago Bears for eleven seasons from 2004 to 2012 before he was hired as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2014 to 2015.
“During his entire head coaching career, his two teams combined for a record of 89-87-0 across eleven seasons including going 3-3-0 in the playoffs,” according to the Pro Football History website.
9. Terry RobiskieSource:Getty
During a nearly 40-year career coaching in the NFL, Robiskie was named an interim head coach twice — once during the 2000 season for the then-Washington Redskins and then during the 2004 season with the Cleveland Browns, according to the Pro Football History website.
10. Romeo CrennelSource:Getty
Romeo Crennel was a head coach for four seasons with the Cleveland Browns from 2005 to 2008 and later for one season with the Houston Texans, according to the Pro Football History website.
11. Mike TomlinSource:Getty
Mike Tomlin, who, as of the time of this list being published, was the lone Black head coach in the NFL, has led the Pittsburgh Steelers for 15 seasons since 2007.
12. Emmitt ThomasSource:Getty
Emmitt Thomas was named interim head coach of the Atlanta Falcons in the middle of the 2007 season after a sudden resignation left the position vacant. Thomas was the Falcons’ head coach for just four games before the team decided to hire someone else for the job in the offseason.
13. Mike SingletarySource:Getty
Mike Singletary was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers for three seasons from 2008 to 2010.
14. Jim CaldwellSource:Getty
Jim Caldwell has been head coach for two different NFL franchises: the Indianapolis Colts from 2009 to 2011 and the Detroit Lions from 2014 to 2017.
Interestingly enough, Caldwell was mentioned in Brian Flores’ lawsuit as an example of a Black NFL head coach who was fired in spite of the success he enjoyed.
“He had an aggregate record of 36-28, a winning percentage of .563 — the best winning percentage of any Lions Head Coach since the 1950’s,” Flores’ lawsuit said in part. “The Lions also had two playoff berths in four seasons, as compared to one playoff appearance in the previous 14 seasons. Nonetheless, Mr. Caldwell was fired the day after his fourth season.”
15. Raheem MorrisSource:Getty
Raheem Morris was an NFL head coach with two separate teams from 2009 to 2020, including leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2009 to 2011, with the first three seasons of that tenure including double-duty as the team’s defensive coordinator. He served in the same double capacity with the Atlanta Falcons in 2020.
As of the time that this list was published, Morris was seen as a leading candidate for the Minnesota Vikings’ head coaching vacancy.
16. Perry FewellSource:Getty
Perry Fewell was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills for a single season in 2019.
17. Leslie FrazierSource:Getty
Over a nearly 20-year career as a coach in the NFL, Leslie Frazier was the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings from 2010 to 2013. After serving as defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills in 2021, Frazier interviewed for the Chicago Bears’ head coaching job.
18. Eric StudesvilleSource:Getty
Eric Studesville was the head coach for the Denver Broncos during the final four games of the 2010 season. He served as the defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins under then-head coach Brian Flores during the 2021 season.
19. Mel TuckerSource:Getty
Mel Tucker was named the interim head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars for the final five games of the 2011 season. He was also named assistant head coach of the Jaguars for the 2012 season, according to the Pro Football History website.
20. Todd BowlesSource:Getty
Todd Bowles was a head coach in the NFL for five seasons, beginning with the Miami Dolphins in the 2011 season and four other seasons leading the New York Jets from 2015 to 2018.
21. Hue JacksonSource:Getty
Hue Jackson was an NFL head coach with two franchises for four seasons. He led the Oakland Raiders during the 2011 season and was the head coach for the Cleveland Browns from 2016 to 2018.
Notably, Jackson responded to Flores’ lawsuit by claiming he was subjected to similar treatment described in the complaint. Jackson claims the Browns incentivized losing while he was head coach in order to increase the team’s odds in the NFL Draft.
22. Anthony LynnSource:Getty
Anthony Lynn was a head coach in the NFL for two teams over the course of five seasons. After leading the Buffalo Bills for one season in 2016. Lynn was hired by the Los Angeles Chargers the following season and served in that capacity for four years through the 2020 season.
23. Vance JosepSource:Getty
Vance Joseph, who was the head coach for the Denver Broncos for the 2017 and 2018 seasons and is reportedly a candidate for the Miami Dolphins head coaching job that was left vacant after Brian Flores was fired.
24. Brian FloresSource:Getty
Brian Flores was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2019 through the 2021 season, after which he was fired. Sports news website the Ringer reported that Flores was not fired because of his coaching but rather because of his troubled relationship with team owner Stephen Ross, a supporter of former President Donald Trump who has refuted claims of racial discrimination.