UPDATED: 11:00 a.m. ET, Nov. 2, 2023
The NFL has finally hired another Black head coach, although it’s only an interim tag for the time being.
On Wednesday, the Las Vegas Raiders fired Head Coach Josh McDaniels and General Manager David Ziegler after a terrible start to their 2023 season.
Shortly after, the team announced that linebackers coach and former NFL player Antonio Pierce, who is a Black man, would be taking over for McDaniels in an interim role. The Raiders also announced Assistant General Manager Champ Kelly, who is also a Black man, would be taking over for Ziegler as the interim General Manager.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) November 1, 2023
During a press conference Wednesday, Pierce says he understands the expectations of being the Raiders head coach.
“The Raider pride. The commitment to excellence,” Pierce said. “And making sure our alumni, our fans, and Raider Nation are proud of what they see on the field. We’re tired of losing. It’s not a good feeling. We’re a production-based business.”
Pierce will get the opportunity to coach the team’s final nine games of the season and then will be evaluated to see if he could be the permanent head coach.
Antonio Pierce was a nine-year NFL veteran who played for the Washington Commanders and New York Giants from 2001 to 2009. He won the Super Bowl with the Giants in 2007 before becoming an NFL analyst at ESPN. Pierce began his coaching career in 2014 where he coached the Long Beach Polytechnic High School program for three years. In 2017 he became the defensive coordinator at Arizona State University, then in 2022, he was hired as the linebackers coach for the Raiders.
Before Antonio Pierce, former NFL star DeMeco Ryans was the latest Black man to ascend to the position of head coach in the NFL. The Houston Texans announced this week that the organization hired Ryans on a six-year deal, making them the first NFL team to hire three consecutive Black coaches.
“For so many reasons, DeMeco is everything we are looking for in a leader and coach for our organization,” said Texans owner Cal McNair in a statement.
“He has a proven track record for developing high-quality players and constantly innovated his defensive scheme over the last six seasons in San Francisco.”
Last year, Ryan served as defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers who had one of the best defenses in the league. As a player, Ryans was a two-time Pro Bowler and is still the Texans’ all-time tackles leader. Hopefully, DeMeco’s hiring is the catalyst for more Black coaches in the NFL.
With all the controversy surrounding the NFL and its alleged efforts at diversifying head coaching around the professional football league, it’s worth putting things in their proper perspective for folks who may be shrugging and wondering what the big deal is. After all, they may be musing, isn’t the NFL disproportionately made up of Black players? Must Black folks be head coaches too, critics might be wondering.
Of course, that type of logic is counterproductive and completely beside the point, what with the racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Black head coach and alleging that the NFL’s ownership is colluding to keep teams’ head coaches as white as possible.
Brian Flores, who used to be the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL claiming there is racial discrimination in the hiring process. Specifically, Flores claims he’s had multiple incidents of racial discrimination that involved several teams, as well as coaches and executives around the league.
In the suit, Flores cites text messages from New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, who said he believed he was contacting Brian Daboll, another coach interviewing for the New York Giants head coaching position. In the text message, Belichick confirmed Daboll had already secured the job, but Flores had not yet interviewed for the position. This revelation meant Flores’ upcoming interview with the Giants was a sham because they had already hired their next head coach, who is not Black.
The fact is that Flores’ claims are hardly unique and help bolster critics’ suspicions that the NFL is intentionally trying to keep its head coaching ranks as white as possible despite the league’s so-called Rooney Rule, a policy that requires teams to interview at least one “diverse” candidate when looking to hire new coaches. The rule was expanded in 2009 to include general managers as well as other front-office positions.
Looks about white.pic.twitter.com/r3Von9b2U8
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) February 2, 2022
To be sure, the NFL has had more than 500 head coaches over the course of more than a century of competition. Just 25 of them have been Black.
For perspective’s sake, the NFL entered Black History Month 2023 with just one single Black head coach despite its vow a decade earlier to increase diversity among its head and assistant coaches.
The league has even gone to such drastic measures as partnering with rap legend JAY Z in the name of “entertainment and social justice” as a way to help accomplish its evasive mission.
But so far, nothing has really worked.
Is it because the NFL is an organization akin to “slavery,” like blacklisted free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick said after he was effectively excommunicated from the league following his silent kneeling protest to demonstrate against the police brutality of Black people?
That certainly lines up with what Flores’ lawsuit is alleging.
Flores still has upcoming interviews for head coaching positions with at least two other teams, so, considering the public relations fiasco that his lawsuit is, chances are that pressure will result in him being hired. But, if history is any indication — and it is — that’s far from a guarantee. Either way, Flores. said his lawsuit will not be deterred regardless of whether he is or isn’t an NFL head coach next season.
In the meantime, keep reading to get familiar with the dozens of Black people who have worked as NFL head coaches in the league’s more than 100-year history.