Thursday, January 19, 2006

More Complaints about NFL Hiring Practices; Conference Championship Predictions

On the heels of a brace of recent hirings of new NFL head coaches, a Dallas sportswriter was heard to bitch recently about the dearth of African-Americans awarded, or even considered for, the jobs. We've heard this before. We've heard it for years actually. Then we thought the problem got addressed. There's definitely been an increase in the number of black assistant coaches among the ranks. The upshot of that is that there are now more black head coaches. Three of them made it into the playoffs: Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati), Tony Dungy (Indianapolis) and Lovie Smith (Chicago). There's also Dennis Green in Phoenix, Romeo Crennel in Cleveland and Herman Edwards in Kansas City. That means black head coaches represent a little less than 20% of the available positions. That percentage mirrors the black population of the country in general, so I guess you could argue that affirmative action is working. Unless there's a new paradigm, which states that the number of black coaches should reflect a percentage of the number of black players on the field. African-American ex-players have certainly been filling the ranks of TV reporters nicely, and in that regard it's gotten so a "po' white boy" hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell of breaking into the national electronic media, no matter how articulate or telegenic he might be. (Women, of course, have their own niche in sportscasting, and their hires have little to do with race.)

So I dunno. Maybe because blacks play football on a wide scale, perhaps 70% of NFL coaches should be black. Same with all the broadcasters. Maybe eventually we'll get to that. For now, there's still the possibility that the men hired recently for the top jobs were selected because they presented the most convincing arguments for success to their prospective bosses. You've got to believe that if GM Matt Millen of the Lions could have found an African-American coach to turn around the fortunes of that sorry franchise, he certainly would have hired one.

As of this writing, Oakland, Houston and Buffalo have still yet to fill head coaching slots.

It's just a little hard to believe that racism has anything to do with this issue. They used to bitch about there not being enough African-American quarterbacks. Now there are plenty. These things take time. It takes a while for the pool of qualified candidates to swell.

Then there is the delicate issue of results. In the history of the NFL, only one black quarterback (Doug Williams) has led his team to a league championship. No black head coach has ever won a Super Bowl.


Call-in radio has been rife with complaints that this year's NFL playoff teams are a relatively poor crop. Where are Lombardi's Packers? Shula's Dolphins? Landry's Cowboys? Walsh's 49ers? Belichick's Patriots? It's true that there does not seem to have been a single dominant squad, one destined for greatness. But the upside is that the games have been interesting and close enough to keep us watching. These penultimate, pre-Super Bowl matchups look to be no different.

AFC Championship

Pittsburgh @ Denver (-3)—The Steelers look tough and determined, but it's hard to bet against the Broncos on their home field. It'll sure be interesting to see which QB, Ben Roethlisberger or Jake Plummer, rises to the occasion. But maybe the offenses are equal, which means the defenses will determine things. Both are very good. Falling back on old benchmarks, the Broncos are at home and had a better record all season long.

Prediction: Denver 20, Pittsburgh 16

NFC Championship

Carolina @ Seattle (-3.5)—Another game that could go either way. Carolina may have beaten the Bears on their road to Seattle, but they took some injury hits in that game and appear to be slightly worse for wear. Seattle has the home-field advantage, a solid offensive line, and a defense that looks to be just now feeling its oats. Don't expect Carolina WR Steve Smith to repeat his all-world performance against the Bears.

Prediction: Seattle 23, Carolina 17

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