Mike Silver of Yahoo Sports wrote a detailed report on the difficulties black assistant coaches have in getting promoted to coordinator roles, specifically calling offensive plays. Jim Caldwell is currently the lone African-American coach calling offensive plays in the NFL. Though few active coordinators would comment on the record, Silver provides numerous examples of coaches being passed over.
Below is an excerpt from the report.
While five of the league's 32 head coaches are African-American, and the Panthers' Ron Rivera is Hispanic, all six of those men come from primarily defensive backgrounds. And though the number of African-American starting quarterbacks is roughly the same (currently: Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Michael Vick, Colin Kaepernick and Josh Freeman), only Caldwell is truly runningan NFL offense.
"We are very, very conscious of this issue, and it's something that needs to be addressed," said John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization charged with promoting equality of job opportunity in NFL coaching and front office staffs. "We have alluded to it and spoken to it directly, and we feel our only course of action is to push more people up the pipeline."
Complicating matters for Wooten and the legions of aspiring minority offensive coordinators is that the pipeline is also disproportionately dry.
"Really, the reason why there aren't a lot of guys calling plays is that you have to have people ascending to quarterbacks coach and jobs that lead to coordinator positions. And that's simply not happening," said Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. "There are a lot of good coaches who aren't getting those opportunities."
Right now, the NFL's sole African-American offensive coordinator is the Buffalo Bills' Curtis Modkins, who doubles as the team's running backs coach. However, Bills coach Chan Gailey is the team's de facto offensive coordinator and primary play-caller. Only two African-Americans, the Houston Texans' Karl Dorrell and the Minnesota Vikings' Craig Johnson, are quarterbacks coaches, the position-coach job which most frequently leads to offensive-coordinator opportunities.
"This is the biggest travesty that's taking place in this league, and every black coach is well aware of it," said one anonymous African-American assistant for an AFC team. "They don't promote you from running backs coach or receivers coach to offensive coordinator. When guys do get coordinator titles, they have to be position coaches at the same time, and they don't get paid as much as other coordinators, because they're not the play-callers. And in a lot of cases, guys believe they're really there for locker-room reasons, to 'take care of' the minority players."