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Mike Silver’s latest article examines the lack of any minority hires among the fourteen NFL head coaches and general managers hired in January (leaving the Jets general manager position as the last remaining vacant job). At the coaching level, seven of the eight hires — Andy Reid (Chiefs), Doug Marrone (Bills), Rob Chudzinski (Browns), Mike McCoy (Chargers), Marc Trestman (Bears), Chip Kelly (Eagles), and Bruce Arians (Cardinals) — have been offensive coaches, with former Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley (Jaguars) serving as the lone exception.

A few weeks ago, Silver hit on what I view as the bigger problem, the lack of minority coaches serving as quarterbacks coaches, offensive coordinators, and play callers on staffs, the natural candidates for future head coaching jobs. However, even Silver only suggests two potential coaches with offensive backgrounds for owners to consider:

[F]ormer Raiders coach Hue Jackson, has had zero head-coaching interviews (and only one interview for a vacant offensive-coordinator position, in Carolina) despite having presided over top-10 offenses in Oakland in 2010 and ’11, and having gone 8-8 in his lone year as the Raiders’ coach. Newly promoted Ravens offensive coordinator (and former Colts coach) Jim Caldwell, who like [Lovie] Smith has Super Bowl head coaching experience, hasn’t gotten any sniffs, either.

One of the best pictures of 2011.

One of the best pictures of 2011.

Both of those coaches are stretches, which underscores the real problem. Taking on Jackson first, let’s note that Silver ignored the ineffective offenses Jackson presided over as an offensive coordinator in Washington (2003) and Atlanta (2007), although I understand giving Jackson a pass in both cases. So let’s look at the real claim: were the 2010 Raiders a top ten offense? They ranked 6th in points and 10th in yards, so you might think so. But Oakland also had 199 offensive drives, the 3rd most in the league, and the number of drives an offense has bears no relationship to the quality of the offense. In 2010, Oakland ranked 16th in points per drive, 17th in yards per drive and 20th in drive success rate. Pro-Football-Reference.com ranked the Raiders offense 17th in Expected Points Added, which is a more advanced metric than just yards or points. And Oakland had a considerably easier-than-average schedule that year, too. Strength of schedule, as you cam imagine, can have a big impact: while Oakland may have ranked 6th in points scored with a 25.6 points per game average, they averaged 49 points per game against the Broncos (32nd in points allowed) and 22.3 points per game against the rest of the NFL. In Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, the 2010 Raiders ranked 23rd in offense, which is SOS-adjusted.

In 2011, the Raiders offense was a bit better: Football Outsiders ranked them 14th in DVOA, and 13th in yards/drive, 15th in points/drive, and 14th in drive success rate. PFR ranked them 14th in EPA, so I think we can all feel comfortable calling them the 14th best offense. But there are two problems with trumpeting 2011 as a sign of great potential in Jackson. For starters, while Hue Jackson called the plays on offense, it was newly-hired offensive coordinator Al Saunders responsible for the scheme and play design. More importantly, Jackson’s lone season as head coach in Oakland will be more remembered for his awful trade for Carson Palmer, as he sent a 2012 first rounder and a 2013 second round pick to the Bengals in October 2011. Al Davis had passed ten days earlier, and without a clear face of the organization, Jackson took it upon himself to mortgage the Raiders’ future for Palmer. I suspect teams are holding that against Jackson, even if his on-field work in the wake of Davis’ death left one of the enduring images of the season. Suffice it to say, pointing to the Raiders offenses in 2010 and 2011 as a sign that Jackson is some hidden gem is as silly as ranking offenses by yards.

The other name Silver trumpets as being passed over by NFL teams is more comical: Jim Caldwell. As the head coach at Wake Forest from 1993 to 2000, Caldwell went 26-63. He then joined Tony Dungy’s staff in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, taking over as the head coach when Dungry retired after the 2008 season. In 2009 and 2010, Indianapolis went 24-8, made the postseason both years, and made it to the Super Bowl, where the enduring memory of the game is how Sean Payton outcoached him. He was outcoached by Rex Ryan in the playoffs the following year, a blemish that looks uglier with each passing day. Of course, in 2009 and 2010 Caldwell had Peyton Manning on his roster; in 2011, the Manningless Colts went 2-14 with one of the worst offenses in the league. I don’t think there’s an owner or fanbase in the league that would be excited about the hiring of Caldwell as their team’s newest head coach. [Post-AFCCG Update: I will note that Caldwell has been doing an excellent job as the Ravens OC in this year’s playoffs. We’ll see where that takes him next year.] Caldwell and Jackson also bear the retread label, and Reid was the only head coach hired this year who had previously been an NFL head coach. For years fans have cried foul when teams hire head coaches who have been fired from prior jobs, and it looks like at least this year, NFL organizations agreed with that sentiment.

There is one minority candidate who rightfully should have been considered for a job this year: Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Horton may have hurt himself by thinking he was the frontrunner to replace fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona, but I can’t blame the Cardinals for choosing to hire an offensive mind in Bruce Arians rather than promoting from within on a team that went 1-11 over the last three months of the season. Again, only one defensive coach was hired this year, so Horton seems to be a victim of his title, not his race. For aspiring defensive coordinators, this was a rough month.

Silver raises a point worth discussing and it’s fair to question the effectiveness of the Rooney Rule. He also bemoans the lack of minority hiring at the GM level, although I don’t considered myself qualified to add anything of note to that topic. On the coaching level, the bigger issue is the lack of quality candidates, not that Jackson, Caldwell, and Horton weren’t hired. The NFL can be extremely insular, and nothing better shows that than the news today out of Chicago. The Bears have hired Matt Cavanaugh — yes, the guy with this resume — as Chicago’s new quarterbacks coach. There is only one explanation for how the Jets quarterbacks coach of the past two years could get the same job in Chicago: Cavanaugh (as QB coach) worked under Trestman (as offensive coordinator) in San Francisco in 1996. As Ian Rapoport notes, the Bears press release ignores Mark Sanchez’ 2011 and 2012 seasons. I can’t say I blame their PR department.

  • Charles Spooner

    You should at the lack of minorities at the Quality Control Coach Position which is a starting point for NFL coaching aspirations.
    The NFL is a country club atmosphere,for example look at how Todd Haley got his start he never played Football at the college level was a golf pro before joining NY JETS scouting department but benefited from his fathers connections. Start at the Bottom and examine those entry level positions.

  • sunrise089

    I had an even longer reply typed up, but I deleted it as it stopped seaming productive. Suffice it to say I question Mike Silver’s biases and his statistics. I see no reason to focus on the number of black coaches in the NFL while not caring about the number of white cornerbacks or even white NBA coaches…it smells like arbitrary endpoints to me.

    I have a very hard time believing NFL execs are systemically racist in an industry that otherwise operates very much as a meritocracy. The main inefficiency in football I’ve learned about through reading here and elsewhere is too much tendency to avoid risk and shift blame, and in that case racists should be even more likely to fail. A team that passes on quality candidates due to skin color will lose games for it in the long run, and a coach or GM that makes a stink about disliking certain racial groups draws attention to himself in a way that all the 4th-and-1 punts suggest coaches are desperate to avoid. The other things I know about NFL coaches and team staffs (talk is cheap, but their lip-service indicates great respect for multiculturalism; their employees and colleagues tend to be more diverse than the general population; they tend to be wealthier and better educated; they tend to live in more urban areas; etc.) all make me less likely to believe there’s systemic racism present.

    If I’m being charitable to Silver I’d guess he’s for some reason not worrying about the percentage of minority NFL players, but then he’s assuming all coaches should be represented in about the same racial makeup as the player population. I think that confuses the skills needed to be a player versus a coach quite a bit, and my suggestion if Silver wishes to up the number of minority coaches at all levels would be to speak out against the far lower minority D1 football graduation rates. I’m guessing without a college degree it’s pretty tough to make initial step into the graduate assistant or quality control coach ranks.

    Obviously it’s tough putting out least common denominator sports pieces everyday, so Silver is hardly alone is having low quality output. My reader feedback though is you’re better off sticking to your generally excellent analysis and not being roped into taking policy positions.

    • Chase Stuart

      Thanks for the feedback and glad you’re a fan of the site!

      My point with this article is if someone wants to cry foul about minority candidates being overlooked and then can only use Hue Jackson and Jim Caldwell as his examples, then there’s an even bigger problem: there are no good minority candidates.

      Part of that is because people like David Shaw and Tony Dungy have removed themselves from the discussion, but honestly there are very few “hot” minority candidates — why that is the case is a topic worth investigating, unlike wondering why no one wants Hue Jackson or Jim Caldwell to run their franchise.

  • Coatesvillain

    Here is something I haven’t seen people talk about, but is it possible that the trend we’re seeing right now is the fruit born from how black QBs were handled in the past?

    Let me try to explain without rambling: Mike Silver highlighted in his first article that the fast track to getting a head coaching job in today’s NFL is through having a hand in the play calling on offense. Jobs such as WR and RB coach had a glass ceiling in place that prevented coaches from getting there where QB coaching jobs were the fast track to OC jobs, and so on. Could a part of this dearth of black offensive coaching candidates be connected to that? There’s also the possibility I could be crazy.

    I just think there’s a lot of room to work on this, and it’s sad that I see so many people distill this problem down to “there’s no black coaches.. well there’s no white CBs!” when the two things are not the same. We know that the NFL isn’t a meritocracy. That isn’t to say owners are purposely being discriminatory but it’s part of the machinery, and people tend to hire what they’re comfortable with. It’s how the Dolphins pass up Tomlin because he’s too hip-hop and go with Cam Cameron who looks more like what we think of as a head coach.

    It’s a major problem that deserves some major thinking, and I’m glad that people such as Michael Silver and Bomani Jones are being so vocal about this dialogue. My only hope is that Goodell doesn’t send down some mandate, or quota. This isn’t exactly an issue you can order people to fix. The one thing that makes me sad when I think of all of this is that I’m sure in the 80’s when Bill Walsh helped start the program to get players into coaching he would have thought we would be further along than we are right now.