The Couch Slouch

When it comes to coaching hires, race very much an issue

Getty Images

I have a friend – let's call him "Wes," because his real name is Scott but he does not want me mentioning him – who, every time I ask, "How come there are not more black head coaches in the NFL?" responds, "How come there are not more white running backs in the NFL?"

Wes then usually follows up by saying, "Why does it always have to be about race?"

In regard to the lack of white running backs, the NFL scouting combine does not measure skin color. However, the de facto, stopwatch-less NFL coaching combine seems to measure a bunch of things other than speed, power and agility.

And why is it always about race? Well, for starters, I think much of U.S. history – 87 years of slavery, the Civil War and another century before the Civil Rights Act with Jim Crow in between, mass incarceration, Stacey Dash – answers that question.

As for the sports world, the numbers don't lie: In the NFL, 70 percent of the players are black, but never have more than 25 percent of the head coaches been black. That number is usually much lower, as it is right now – the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin, the Los Angeles Chargers' Anthony Lynn and the Miami Dolphins' Brian Flores are the only black coaches among 32 franchises.

In fact, only once in NFL history has a team replaced a black head coach with another black man – in 2009, when the Indianapolis Colts' Tony Dungy retired and Jim Caldwell succeeded him.

After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, many thought a post-racial America – in which prejudice fades as black and white becomes immaterial – had arrived.

Look around: Does this feel like post-racial America to you? I think not.

I have created what I call "the U.S. Postal Service test" to prove this.

Go to your nearest post office – to mail a letter or just for nostalgic purposes – and, while standing in line, take note of your immediate thought every time somebody walks in:

"That's an old guy."

"That's a woman with a baby carriage."

"That's a fat guy."

"Man, that's an ugly shirt."

"That's a black guy."

And there you have it – you identify people by various characteristics, but the defining characteristic of the black person is they are black.

Note: This test might not work if you happen to be black.

(Column Intermission: At the Jan. 2 press conference introducing Ron Rivera as head coach, Washington R*dsk*ns owner Dan Snyder began by saying, "First off, happy Thanksgiving, everybody." In his defense, it is entirely possible that Snyder, who lives under a rock beneath his Potomac mansion currently on the market for $49 million, lost track of the calendar counting his money in the dark.)

To be fair, the lack of black head coaches is not just a product of racism. We tend to hire people we know, people with similar backgrounds. In a league with no black owners and one black general manager, that's a whole lot of white-only business meetings, golf outings and dinner parties.

Which is why the Rooney Rule, an NFL policy requiring every team to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching positions, was adopted in 2003; it was expanded in 2009 to include general manager jobs.

Yet in 2020, there are only three black head coaches, the same number as in 2003.

So the Rooney Rule hasn't delivered results; on the other hand, I've got to say, nepotism does deliver results.

Frankly, most teams will just go through the motions in interviewing a minority candidate en route to hiring whom they want.

It makes the Rooney Rule feel more like public relations than provocative policy.

And even if the Rooney Rule is well intentioned, if you keep bringing in one minority among 10 or 15 serious candidates, you are hardly ever going to hire that minority. But if you bring in three or four or – gasp! – even more minority candidates, occasionally one will dazzle and you'll think, "Where has this guy been hiding?"

Uh, in broad daylight.

Probably in a post office line.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Seeing how much you like computerized statistical analysis, I performed a computerized statistical analysis on your most recent column. It shows that 52.63157895 percent of the bugaboos you cited had nothing to do with sports. Aren't you out of bounds? (Ian Timberlake; Washington, D.C.)

A. Go fly a kite near a half-built stadium on a windless day.

Q. My wife says I am giving him the benefit of the doubt, but I believe ESPN NFL analyst Booger McFarland stops talking the moment the game ends. Your thoughts? (David Bradley; Austin, Tex.)

A. Socrates: "An unexamined life is not worth living." Booger McFarland: "An unexamined play ain't happening on my watch."

Q. Let's see: a meddlesome boss, a backstabbing culture and a high probability of early termination. Wait, which Cabinet position did Ron Rivera just take over? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome