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Black coaches in NFL have the necessities

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When disposed Los Angeles Dodgers executive, Al Campanis, exclaimed, “Blacks may not have some of the necessities to manage”  he was so wrong.

He was as wrong as the NFL and its treatment of opportunities afforded Black head coaching aspirants.

In the long and glorious history of the NFL there have been o­nly 10 African-Americans named to a head coaching position.

They are in order: Fritz Pollard (Akron 1921; Milwaukee 1925), Art Shell (L.A. Raiders 1989-94), Dennis Green (Minnesota 1992-2001, Arizona 2004 to present), Ray Rhodes (Philadelphia 1995-98; Green Bay 1999), Tony Dungy (Tampa Bay 1996-2001; Indianapolis 2002-present), Terry Robiskie (Washington 2000; Cleveland 2004), Herman Edwards (N.Y. Jets 2001-present), Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati 2003 to present), Lovie Smith (Chicago 2004 to present) and Romeo Crennel (Cleveland 2004 to present).

When the late, famed lawyer Johnnie Cochran and class-action attorney Cyrus Mehri co-authored a study of the NFL’s hiring practices of minority head coaches back in 2002, many took notice (anything Cochran touched people had to take seriously).

The comprehensive initiative drew the ire of conservatives, who held fast to the belief that owners had the right to choose whom they want to run their teams. They also exclaimed loudly that the implementation of the initiative in a sense would smack at reverse discrimination or at the very least Affirmative Action.

Fortunately the NFL brass did not take the completely conservative view, as they did listen to Cochran and Mehri, and conversely, the so-called Rooney Rule requiring minority participation in any NFL head coaching hiring process was implemented.

As a result of Cochran and Mehri’s initiative, the Fritz Pollard Alliance, was created two years ago to watch over the NFL minority hiring practices. Former Giants linebacker Harry Carson is the executive director and he believes that the success of the coaches will lead to even more opportunity.

The mandate to interview at least o­ne minority in the hiring process is producing positive results, as this season, six of the NFL's 32 head coaches are Black, the highest total in the history of a league that had none in the modern era until Shell was named head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 1989.

Ironically, the Detroit Lions and president Matt Millen became the first and o­nly team to usurp the new NFL interviewing criteria and the team was fined $200,000 by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

As for the Lions, they are still o­ne of the league’s premiere dysfunctional families; they just cannot get it right.

After hiring non-descript coach Marty Mornhinweg in 2001, then firing him in 2003, Millen hired Steve Mariucci earning himself the large fine. Next, he fires Mariucci and throws in interim coach Dick Jauron.

During all his hiring and firing, Millen could have brought in Lewis, Smith, Crennel or Green.

Now he has another chance, what will he do? Who will be Detroit’s next coach?

The 2005 NFL season has been a banner year for Black head coaches.

Maybe, just maybe, in Super Bowl XL, in Detroit no less, we will see the first African-American head coach raise the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions.

Leading the way to the football Promised Land is Dungy. Everyone, with the tragic death of his son, James, will have collective eyes firmly planted o­n his Colts.

After laying the seeds in Tampa Bay that grew a championship team, Dungy was fired and Jon Gruden came in and won the title. Now he has redesigned the Colts and they flirted with the 1972 Dolphins' 17-0 record carved 33 years ago. At o­ne point the Colts were 13-0.

Lewis has turned around the Bengals, a franchise that had not won a division title in 15 years and was worse than the Lions. In three years, he produced their first winning season since in 15 years.
Imagine, where the Lions would be if Millen had hired Lewis. o­n second thought, it’s too painful to even consider.

Next, Smith has taken the Bears to its first postseason appearance since 2001.

As the 2005 season winds down, Dungy, Smith and Lewis ranked 1-2-3 in a number of NFL Coach of the Year polls.

Opportunity and chance does wonders for institutional racism. People find that people are just people and color has less to do with heart and hard work and effort.

Smith, Dungy and Lewis are living proof of my contention.

Leland Stein can be heard o­n 107.5 every Sunday from 11 p.m. to midnight in Detroit, MI. He can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com.

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