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Sports Opinion: With job opening, will NFL teams do more than talk about hiring minority coaches?

14:25  05 january  2021
14:25  05 january  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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There’s been more than enough talk about what needs to be done to close the NFL’s racial hiring gap.

It’s time to make it happen.

Six NFL teams were already looking for new coaches as of Monday, and there could be another opening or two still to come. Four of those teams also are in the market for a new general manager, as are the Denver Broncos and the Washington Football Team.

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How many of those teams will hire someone of color? One? Three? Or will NFL owners, a group that is almost exclusively white, continue a hiring record that too often looks like a relic from the Antebellum era?

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“A holistic approach was taken toward hiring practices that have raised expectations for promoting equity, opportunity and inclusion during this hiring cycle and beyond,” Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said on Twitter on Monday.

Expectations are no longer good enough, however. And neither are empty gestures.

Yes, it is encouraging that Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is in high demand. He met with the Atlanta Falcons on Monday, and Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he has two more interviews scheduled this week.

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But we’ve seen this shell game before.

Bieniemy directs one of the NFL’s most prolific, and entertaining, offenses, and has been integral in the development of Patrick Mahomes. If he was white, Bieniemy would already be a head coach. But he is Black, and so he is not, having been passed over for seven jobs in the past two hiring cycles.

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One of those teams that decided Bieniemy wasn’t the right “fit,” the New York Jets, is in the market for a new coach once again. Another four failed to make the playoffs.

“He’s ready to make the move,” said Reid, who cited Bieniemy’s people, organizational and tactical skills. “But it’s got to be a fit for an owner. Somebody has to have … that picture in their mind that Eric Bieniemy can go lead their organization and they’re comfortable with that.”

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As Vincent noted, the NFL has taken steps to level the playing field. The Rooney Rule was expanded so teams are now required to interview two minority candidates for head coaching vacancies and one for coordinator openings.

The league has also given teams incentive to get more Black and brown candidates in the pipeline, awarding compensatory picks for minority assistants and personnel executives hired away as head coaches and general managers.

But the NFL is not the problem. The owners are. They are the ones doing the hiring. They are the ones who have to overlook their biases – implicit and otherwise – about the face of their franchise being Black or brown.

And too few have shown the courage to do so.

Anthony Lynn’s firing by the Los Angeles Chargers left Mike Tomlin, Brian Flores and Ron Rivera as the NFL’s only minority coaches. (Raheem Morris and Romeo Crennel are interim coaches.) In each of the past three hiring cycles, only one man of color has been hired as a head coach.

The NFL, many owners included, made a big show of championing diversity and racial equality after the horrific death of George Floyd. They promised to do better, and be more aware of the privilege that has allowed white coaches to advance while Black and brown coaches with more experience – and, frankly in some cases, more talent – remain stymied.

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But those promises cannot be trusted, not with the NFL’s sorry track record. Not when this is a recurring topic of conversation every offseason, only for nothing to actually change. Not when Urban Meyer could be as hot a commodity as Bieniemy or Robert Saleh or Pep Hamilton.

Not when the NFL has found a multitude of words to address the problem except the two that matter:

You're hired.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: With job opening, will NFL teams do more than talk about hiring minority coaches?

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