Lack of black offensive playcallers in the NFL

The NFL has only one black offensive coordinator:

“We are very, very conscious of this issue, and it’s something that needs to be addressed,” said John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization charged with promoting equality of job opportunity in NFL coaching and front office staffs. “We have alluded to it and spoken to it directly, and we feel our only course of action is to push more people up the pipeline.”

Complicating matters for Wooten and the legions of aspiring minority offensive coordinators is that the pipeline is also disproportionately dry…

Right now, the NFL’s sole African-American offensive coordinator is the Buffalo Bills’ Curtis Modkins, who doubles as the team’s running backs coach. However, Bills coach Chan Gailey is the team’s de facto offensive coordinator and primary play-caller. Only two African-Americans, the Houston Texans’ Karl Dorrell and the Minnesota Vikings’ Craig Johnson, are quarterbacks coaches, the position-coach job which most frequently leads to offensive-coordinator opportunities.

“This is the biggest travesty that’s taking place in this league, and every black coach is well aware of it,” said one anonymous African-American assistant for an AFC team. “They don’t promote you from running backs coach or receivers coach to offensive coordinator. When guys do get coordinator titles, they have to be position coaches at the same time, and they don’t get paid as much as other coordinators, because they’re not the play-callers. And in a lot of cases, guys believe they’re really there for locker-room reasons, to ‘take care of’ the minority players.”

A classic example in the sociology of sport of how race plays out in sports is to look at the expectations for and portrayal of black and white quarterbacks: black quarterbacks are expected to be more mobile and use their natural ability while white quarterbacks tend to be viewed as tacticians. I wonder if the same thing is going on here. Defense is said to require more reaction ability and athletic skills while offense is about strategy and throwing off the defense. Offensive playcalling is more of a sacred art that requires an intelligent guru to make things happen. Also, it sounds like this is a social network problem: black playcallers need to be able to have access to lower offensive positions, be able to prove themselves there, and then have the opportunity to move up when jobs become available. Without this chain in place, it could be a very similar issue to what might be behind the unemployment gap between whites and blacks.

The article doesn’t say much about this but the NFL has put policies in place for helping to ensure minority candidates are interviewed for head coaching positions so will something similar happen here?

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