Rod Graves, the executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, is not pleased with the how the current NFL hiring cycle is unfolding.
There have been two Black general manager’s named in Detroit and Atlanta, but no Black head coaches, with openings remaining in Philadelphia and Houston. The New York Jets hired Robert Saleh, the NFL’s first Muslim head coach.
Graves, the former Arizona Cardinals general manager, has stated that the FPA’s mission is championing diversity in the NFL through education and providing its membership with resources to help them succeed at every level of the game.
The FPA consulted with every team with an opening including the Falcons this offseason. The Falcons interviewed seven candidates for their heading coaching position before hiring Arthur Smith on Saturday. They interviewed Black candidates Raheem Morris, Todd Bowles and Eric Bieniemy once. Only Smith received a second interview.
The Falcons interviewed five Black candidates for the general manager position and hired former Saints executive Terry Fontenot on Tuesday. They also interviewed former Texans general manager Rick Smith, Colts director of college scouting Morocco Brown, the Falcons’ director of college scouting Anthony Robinson and Rams director of college scouting Brady Holmes.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance released a statement on the situation Monday:
“As we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Fritz Pollard Alliance recognizes that the struggle for equality is just as vigorous today as it was during the civil rights period. People of color are still contending with issues of opportunity, unequal pay, and the presence of double standards in the workplace.
“Unfortunately, Black men and other men and women are too often challenged with these situations in the National Football League. Commissioner Roger Goodell and Art Rooney, Chairman of the NFL’s Workplace Diversity Committee, are committed to improvement. Various owners and Head Coaches like Bruce Arians and Andy Reid have been steadfast in their devotion to expanding diversity.
“Thus far, the NFL hiring cycle of 2021 has not changed the rate of hires for Blacks as head coaches and primary football executives. This follows the 2020 Racial and Gender Report Card issued by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (Dr. Richard Lapchick), which gives the NFL failing (or near failing) grades in racial hiring for leadership positions. People of color represent sixty-nine percent (69%) of the players and thirty-five percent (35%) of assistant coaches. In contrast, the NFL has one president, three general managers, and three head coaches who are Black.
“There are many outstanding Black men and other men and women of color in the NFL. The pipeline is as strong as it has ever been. The issue is not in the sufficiency of numbers; the problem is in the limited number of leadership opportunities given. The disparity in opportunities is mind-boggling.
“It is unfortunate that the performances of coordinators like Eric Bieniemy, Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich, Leslie Frasier, and Joe Woods, may not meet what appears as ‘ever-evolving standards’ for becoming a Black Head Coach in the NFL.
“The prospect for second chances is proving to be even more elusive. The same applies to executives like Jerry Reese, Rick Smith, Reggie McKenzie, and others. All capable of providing the vision, leadership, and expertise to lead a championship effort.
“Our goal at the FPA is to work with the NFL to seek better results. If we are to change the portrait of NFL leadership, then the responsibility will require direct participation from the players, the fans, the media, and NFL sponsors. It is our best pathway to progress.”
Falcons’ 2021 draft position
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. New York Jets
3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston)
5. Cincinnati Bengals
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