In late June, the sleepiest part of Florida. On the calendar, several of the sport's top minority coaches and executives gathered at Morehouse College in Atlanta to try to dispel a lingering football myth: that there are not enough qualified candidates for the coveted offensive league training jobs.
At the event, known as the Quarterback Summit, about three dozen aspiring job seekers were heard by seasoned professionals such as former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell, offensive chief coordinator Eric Bieniemy and other Afro coaches and executives. Americans of the past and present. . Training perspectives – young people of color who have modeled offenses at various levels of the sport – have also reached the net. They discussed how to develop quarterbacks. They recorded mock interviews.
The Quarterback Summit, hosted by N.F.L. and held for the second year in a row, took on a new urgency as the number of minority coaches and general managers plunged by half (from eight to four and four to two, respectively) in the 2019 off-season, reversing years of progress.
Recently, the main avenue for leading coaching jobs in New Zealand. It has been the experience of guiding an offense, a role in which minorities have been underrepresented. Among the 32 teams this season were two African American offensive coordinators and 10 defensive coordinators.
The summit "was born of observing the latest hiring cycles and appetite for offensive coaches," said Troy Vincent, executive vice president of football operations in New Zealand. "When you look at demographics, it's embarrassing."
After each NF.L. In recent years, when clubs have laid off coaches and top executives, the league – in which about three-quarters of the players are African Americans – has gone through a thorough examination of how few minorities are hired to fill those vacancies. In November, Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, published his annual report on hiring women and minorities in New Zealand. and gave the league its lowest rating since The institute began tracking this data in 2004.
"We are celebrating New Zealand's 100th birthday, but we have only three color coaches," said Rod Graves, a former New Zealand player. general manager and executive of the league that now runs the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes diversity in football. "Despite all the confusion football has become in this country, that kind of progress, or lack, is shameful."
As Graves noted, the December resignation of Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who is Hispanic, brought the number of minority coaches to three – Steelers Mike Tomlin, Chargers Anthony Lynn, and Dolphins Brian Flores below. a record. eight in 2018 and other years. (Perry Fewell, who is African-American, replaced Rivera, but only on a provisional basis.) There are only two general color managers.
Vincent, Graves, and other summit leaders acknowledged that the emphasis on attacking and promoting coaches who call play and develop defenders has little opportunity for minorities.
For years, African-American coaches have been more likely to be hired for defensive jobs, their roles seemingly circumscribed by the kind of stereotypes that have long guided black players toward defense and moving away from certain offensive positions – the quarterback in particular. but also tight end and the offensive line.
In addition to the scarcity of minority offensive coordinators this season, there were only two African-American quarterback coaches – despite the growing impact of black quarterbacks in the league – five more for tight ends and one for offensive line players.
The Quarterback Summit is just one of the efforts to increase diversity in New Zealand. coaching and front office jobs. In 2003, the N.F.L. introduced Rooney's rule, which requires each club to interview at least one minority candidate from outside the organization when trying to hire a coach, assistant coaches or senior executives in football operations. Named after former Steelers owner Dan Rooney, the rule was intended to help correct racial imbalance, but the number of minority coaches at any given time never exceeded eight and the league rarely penalizes clubs for breaking the rule.
Despite a stated goal of broader diversity, N.F.L. does not set quotas for their teams; Each franchise owner decides who ranks first on his team. Thus, while 28% of the managerial positions at the league's headquarters belong to people of color, the representation among the top front executives of the teams is 11%, a statistic that got a bad rating from Lapchick.
"If we want some sustainability in terms of diversity, we need to focus on leadership diversity," said Graves. "We have a lot of work to do."
Some teams have recognized that diversity has made them better on the field. Half a century ago, the Steelers hired an African-American scout, Bill Nunn Sr., and he found players in historically neglected colleges and universities who helped the team win four Super Bowls between 1974 and 1980.
"All the metrics you could use, these players outnumbered their peers," said Jim Rooney, who recently completed a book about his late father's work. "It gave Dan an appreciation of the talents that were ignored and could give him an edge."
The Arizona Cardinals also broke down barriers. They were the first team to hire an African-American coach and a general manager. The Cardinals also hired the first African American executive and the first African American contract negotiator.
N.F.L. tried to build a path for minority coaches through Bill Walsh N.F.L. Diversity Coaching Fellowship, named after the 49ers coach. Since Walsh started the program in the 1980s, nearly 2,000 development coaches have had internships at NF.L. teams during off-season workouts, mini-fields, and training camps. But as the college football season expanded and NF.L. reduced training out of season, the number of days available for these stages decreased.
Four years ago, Bruce Arians decided that more opportunities were needed. Then, as Cardinals head coach, he approached Arizona executives about the creation of the Bill Bidwill Coaching Scholarship. Named after the late owner of the team, the fellowship pays former minority players to train for up to two years.
"We have to make sure that we are doing everything we can to build a channel of interlocutors and quarterback coaches that will eventually reach the offensive coordinator and coach," said Michael Bidwill, son of Bill Bidwill and current owner. of the cardinals. More than a dozen other New Zealand soldiers. teams have established similar grants since then.
One of Arians' former hires was Byron Leftwich, a Steelers reserve defender when Arians was Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator. Leftwich was admitted in 2016, became the quarterback coach the following year and the offensive coordinator in 2018.
"I don't consider myself an African-American coordinator," said Leftwich. "I'm an African-American coordinator. That's not a trick."
When Arians was hired as coach of the Buccaneers before this season, Leftwich moved to Tampa Bay. The team is the first to have African-American coaches as coordinators of offensive, defensive and special teams, and 11 of their 30 coaches are minorities.
"It's the guys you know and trust, people who haven't had opportunities that deserve them," Arians said. "Our job as coaches is to create the next generation of coaches."
Arians looks forward to the day when hiring minorities is not exceptional. For this to happen, there must be more diversity in lower offensive roles in the organization chart, starting with QA training. Pep Hamilton, D.C. Defenders X.F.L. coach who was an assistant to four affiliated teams, calls this work "springboard".
"You can't teach experience," said Hamilton. "Finally, are you ready or not."