I wrote recently about the Rooney Rule and its unintended consequences that might actually hurt minority candidates. Today I feel the need for yet another mention about minority coaches, specially because of ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith’s comments today that Lovie Smith’s firing potentially involved a racial component to it.
Now, before I go on. Yes, First Take is the worst show on television, and the fact that I’m writing about the show makes me feel so disgusting that I want to take a shower. And yes, I know this is feeding into exactly what First Take wants, which is to throw out crazy comments and have people discuss them and keep the cycle of First Take debate alive. But still, I felt this issue worthy enough to quickly write about. Why did I feel that way? Simple. It’s not fair to the Buccaneers, their ownership, Lovie Smith or minority coaches in general, and does nothing to help minority coaches in the long run.
First, let’s talk about Lovie Smith. I think most were surprised Smith was fired. I know I was, and I know my TDC partner was as well. Would I have made the move? No. But the Buccaneers did, as is their right. But to even remotely imply that perhaps Buccaneers ownership and Malcolm Glazer (and his sons now that Malcolm has passed) had some racial motive behind the move is just amazing to me. That’s because the Glazer family has hired three minority coaches in less than two decades. In fact he’s hired more minority coaches than he has white coaches. In fact, Glazer’s first head coaching hire was Tony Dungy. Later the team would hire Raheem Morris and ultimately Lovie Smith as well. The white coaches hired by the Buccaneers were Jon Gruden and Greg Schiano. So, let’s somehow make sure we realize that in no way was Glazer afraid to hire minority coaches and given them chances, along with his sons.
Now let’s talk about the bigger picture and impact of Stephen A. Smith’s comments. In no way do comments such as Smith’s help minorities. If anything, a team who might be considering hiring a minority may resist for fear of this issue repeating itself in the future (not necessarily that they listen to Smith, but just the general buzz created). A team and owner should feel free to hire and fire a coach as they please. If Glazer hired Dungy, Morris, or Smith in the first place, he clearly thought they were right for the job at the time. Right or wrong, there came a point where he and the team no longer felt that way, and if so, they should make a firing for the sake of their team and fan base.
Obviously not every firing looks good in hindsight. To that point I’d be willing to bet that the Buccaneers also wouldn’t have hired Greg Schiano and fired him after two years also. Likewise the Cleveland Browns probably wish they had given Bill Belichick more time to grow into a head coach. Regardless of the reasons, bad decisions are made in the NFL on a routine basis. It’s the nature of the business. What’s not good for business is suggesting that race had anything to do with Lovie Smith’s firing.