There are just three Black head coaches in the NFL.
Doug Williams, one of the league's few high-ranking Black executives, believes there are several qualified minority candidates to occupy the 32 posts and those underneath them. The Washington Football Team vice president of player development knows many of them personally from his involvement with the Quarterback Coaching Summit.
The list, Williams noted in the latest episode of the Huddle & Flow podcast with NFL Network's Steve Wyche and Jim Trotter, extends well beyond Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
"There's a lot of guys out there that deserve an opportunity to be coaching in the National Football League," Williams said. "I worked in Jacksonville, I worked in Tampa and I worked in here, and when I see guys working and compare them to some of the guys I've seen over the last three years at the summit, there's no doubt in my mind, it's about an opportunity. And it's unfortunate, usually in the NFL, it's a buddy-buddy deal. Some guys who really deserve to be up here don't get it."
Recent amendments to the Rooney Rule might change that. Teams are now required to interview additional minority candidates for head-coaching, coordinator and front office positions. Williams, who in 1988 became the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl, also sees the climate changing within the league in terms of inclusion. It's a development driven by but still resting on the players.
"What has happened this year with (NFL EVP of football operations) Troy Vincent and the Commissioner has put a lot of hope into things changing," he said. "You look at what's transpired over the last few months with this social justice thing, we hope. I think somewhere along the line, whenever the players decide we need to change this thing, we need more coaches, it might happen. I don't see it happening tomorrow, but it's going to be left up to them."
Of course, hiring trends are ultimately dictated by owners. Williams suggested the usual methods used to select candidates for top jobs often keeps minorities out of contention, much more so than the fact that there are only two Black general managers.
"I think the focus should be more on the ownership," Williams said. "They need to come to the summit and sit down and be able to talk to people and tell us why they have not hired (minorities), and what they're looking to do. I think you put everything in the hands of search firms, these agents who represent one guy, might be representing the general manager who wants you to hire the coach he represents. Might be representing the coach who wants you to hire the general manager that he represents. I think that's what has happened. Until we get past that, the owners got to make that decision because they're the only ones that's going to make that happen."