(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the “Booger” McFarland interview, click on the attached audio: Ep 18: Conference Championship Weekend w/ Booger McFarland | The Eye Test for Two | Spreaker)
Earlier this month, there were seven head-coaching vacancies in the NFL. Now there’s one.
Nothing unusual there, except for this: Only one of those vacancies was filled by a minority … and it wasn’t Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Nor was it any African-American. It was Jets’ coach Robert Saleh, who is Muslim.
In a league where the overwhelming majority of players are black, that is more than a concern; it’s a problem that needs to be fixed. But how? We asked former NFL defensive lineman Anthony “Booger” McFarland, now an ESPN analyst, on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast.
And he had no answer.
“I don’t think there’s (anything) you can do,” he said, “because you’re ultimately dealing with 31 owners … and then Green Bay, which is a publicly-traded company. You have 31 billionaires, and they’re deciding what they want to do with their money. Until you can change them or give them good enough reasons in their minds to change, they’re going to continue to do what’s made them successful — which is do what they want to do.”
But that hasn’t been good enough, one reason the NFL formed the Fritz Pollard Alliance and invoked the Rooney Rule – a league policy designed to promote ethnic-minority coaches for head-coaching jobs and senior football operation jobs within its 32 clubs.
But the results have been mixed. Though there are minority coordinators, the lack of African-American head coaches is startling. At present, there are two – with Houston the only franchise without a coach. A year ago, there were three, but the Chargers’ Anthony Lynn was fired earlier this month.
“Troy Vincent (the NFL’s executive VP of football operations) and (commissioner) Roger Goodell are doing every freaking thing they can,” said McFarland. “But ultimately, are you going to tell Jerry Jones, ‘Hey, Jerry, here’s who you gotta hire.’ Are you going to tell Arthur Blank? These guys are billionaires. They are the top one percent in the world. And we are trying to tell them what to do with their companies
“It’s not right. It’s disgusting, especially when the league is 70 percent black, and a lot of this money that you are accumulating is made off the black player and black assistant coaches, but yet they are not good enough to run the company.
“It’s disappointing. I don’t know if it will change. People a lot smarter than me have tried to come up with different things to make it change, and it still hasn’t changed yet.”
Asked if the promotions of African-Americans to coordinator jobs might speed up the process, McFarland shook his head. And he’s right. Look at Bieniemy. He’s the offensive coordinator of the defending Super Bowl champions and a club one step from a second consecutive Super Bowl.
But he’s still waiting on an offer.
“They keep moving the goal posts,” said McFarland. “Before, it was coordinators (owners wanted). Then you start hiring the Joe Judges of the world (now the Giants’ head coach, he was the special-teams coordinator at New England). And now it’s. ‘OK, we want guys who are CEO-like.’ So every time you move the goal posts I think something else is going to become the new ‘It” thing.
“A few years ago, it was coordinators. That’s changed now. Like nobody’s talking about coordinators anymore. It’s about: Can you be a quarterback guru? No longer do you have to be a coordinator. You just need to be a quarterback guy … or now (it’s) can you be a leader of men?
“(New Lions’ coach) Dan Campbell got a job, and he hasn’t called plays (or) anything. For all intents and purposes, he’s going to be a master motivator. Who knew you could just motivate? And I’m not saying that Dan Campbell’s not a great coach. Because, for all intents and purposes Sean Payton says he’s a phenomenal coach. But if you just look at the trajectory of people who have become head coaches you wouldn’t say Dan Campbell would’ve been next in line.
“So, I don’t know what you do. I just think if you want to coach you’ve got to be the best coach you can be. And, hopefully, an owner pays attention and gives you an opportunity.”