Every year, the NFL’s head coach hiring cycles seems to expand its pool of minority candidates interviewed without expanding its percentage of minority coaching hires. The most recent hiring cycle was no exception, and the primary argument that has formulated of late, both by advocates and opponents of diversity measures, is the simple reality that there is not a steady pipeline of minority coaches on the offensive side of the ball.
The NFL is working to address that, adopting a resolution this year that will require all teams (who do not already have one) to employ one “diverse person” (either a woman or a person of a minority ethnicity) to an assistant offensive coaching position, which will work closely with the head coach and offensive staff. His or her pay would be reimbursed as a stipend through the league.
“It’s a recognition that at the moment, when you look at stepping stones for a head coach, they are the coordinator positions”, Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said yesterday, via Kevin Seifert of ESPN. “We clearly have a trend where coaches are coming from the offensive side of the ball in recent years, and we clearly do not have as many minorities in the offensive coordinator [job]”.
It’s something that is routinely discussed, as I previously stated, on both sides of the argument. Both Teryl Austin and Brian Flores, the two most prominent members of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s defensive staff, have talked about the reality of a lack of representation of minorities on the offensive sides of coaching staffs.
League-wide numbers of minority coaches have expanded, but mostly on defense. An estimated 39 percent of coaches in the NFL going into the 2022 season are of a minority ethnicity, compared to 35 percent last season.
The Steelers have long had a diverse staff under Tomlin, though Austin marks his first coordinator who is a minority, promoted to the defensive coordinator role this year following the retirement of Keith Butler. He is just the third defensive coordinator under Tomlin in 15 years. Tomlin has had four offensive coordinators, with Bruce Arians and Todd Haley marking the longest tenures of five-plus years.
In addition to Austin and Flores, as mentioned, the team’s coaching staff also includes as minorities assistant head coach John Mitchell, running backs coach Eddie Faulkner, wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson, tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts, assistant offensive line coach Isaac Williams, defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, secondary coach Grady Brown, and assistant outside linebackers coach Denzel Martin.