Roxanna Scott, USA Today, October 14, 2022
Mike Freeman has been covering the NFL for more than three decades and has written dozens of stories about the lack of diversity among NFL coaches. But even he was surprised at what our data revealed.
A recently published USA TODAY analysis of NFL coaches found there are deep racial disparities around the types of jobs that routinely lead to head coaching positions. White assistant coaches generally follow the career path of position coach to coordinator to head coach, while their Black counterparts often get stuck in positions that lead to fewer promotion opportunities.
Here were some of the key findings by USA TODAY reporters:
- Of the 722 on-field coaches in the NFL this season, 314 (or 43.5%) identify as nonwhite, which is believed to be the largest figure, by count, in league history.
- More than 50% of coaches at the lowest levels – quality control, coaching assistants and fellows – are nonwhite, compared to only 27% at the coordinator level or above.
- Twenty-nine of the league’s 31 running backs coaches this season – or 93% – are coaches of color. Wide receivers coaches are 70% nonwhite.
- Offensive line and quarterbacks coaches are 90% and 81% white, respectively.
- In the past seven years, only six running backs coaches have been promoted to offensive coordinator. Just one coach with a running backs resume has been hired as a head coach during that span.
“Anecdotally when you cover beats and you cover teams, you cover the league, you kind of see it when you go to practices,” Freeman, USA TODAY Sports race and inequality editor, said of the dearth of Black coaches in coordinator and head coaching roles. “When you’re around teams and you talk to coaches, you hear bits and pieces about it. But (the) data put it all in one stark place.”
The NFL has its own data on diversity in its coaching ranks, breaking it down by each of the 32 teams. But it doesn’t share that information publicly. Many media outlets have written stories about the lack of Black head coaches in the league at the surface level. Few have shown “what’s going on beneath the surface and why the surface problem exists,” said sports columnist Nancy Armour.