Friday, January 20, 2006

Jim Souhan: the white Scoop Jackson

He's done it again my friends. He's managed to take an opinion piece and turn it into a story filled with missing facts and half-truths, because he's writing for the lowest common denominator and apparently he thinks no one is actually going to give it a thought. Well if no one else is going to, than I guess that leaves us. You can read the article here. I don't really see any other way to do this, than to go bit by bit (Fire Joe Morgan style), but it's simple and easy, so here you go:

(Souhan's comments in italics)

The NFL takes pride in its "Rooney Rule," the requirement that teams with head coaching vacancies interview a minority candidate.

Jim is starting off with a bang. Except it's not really a bang, or a boom, or even a crash. This is more like a whispery fart from underneath the covers at 3 in the morning.

The NFL, most certainly does not "take pride" in the Rooney Rule. It's embarrassing. It's disgraceful that it even has to exist. If the NFL took pride in such a rule, they'd talk about it all the time. They'd have a link to it on their home page. "Look! See what were doing?". Nope, none of that.

If you subtract the Herm Edwards transaction, in which he left the Jets for the Chiefs, there were nine NFL head coaching jobs available this month.

Why subtract it? Omitting the fact that a head coach, who happens to be black, wanted to leave his awful team and was immediately in talks to replace another, sounds fishy to me. Herm Edwards was the only guy KC ever wanted and I don't think they even interviewed anyone else. So basically by glossing over this one, you don't have to acknowledge the fact that it would go against the point you're trying to make.

Six teams have hired white assistant coaches with no previous NFL head coaching experience. One (Houston) is about to hire a white assistant coach with no previous NFL head coaching experience. One (Buffalo) might hire a white guy who does have NFL head coaching experience. And one (Al Davis' Oakland) will hire anyone desperate enough to take orders from Davis, which limits the coaching search to seeing-eye dogs, manservants and Ed McMahon.

First, just let me say I can't stand using the term "black head coach" or "white assistant coach", boy I don't know about you guys but I think Mike is one of the best damn white sports blog writers around. But for the sake of clarity I guess we'll need to go with it.

So Jim, can you name me any, and I mean ANY black coaches with previous head coaching experience in the NFL who are currently unemployed? I can't think of a one besides Art Shell and I don't think he's leaving that Executive job with the NFL anytime soon.

The Texans are basically waiting for Gary Kubiak's season to be over to name him their head coach. Kubiak has consistently been one of the top offensive-minded coaches for the last 10 years. He won two Super Bowls in 97 and 98 and plain and simple, he makes Quarterbacks better (see Jake Plummer) Gee, do you think the Texans need someone like that? I can see Jim Caldwell being a possible good fit here but since Kubiak is from Houston, and Caldwell hasn't been a coordinator, I'd say this is going to happen.

Buffalo's situation is just flat out a mystery. Hire octogenarian, Marv Levy. Force Mularky to fire most of his assistants (something he refused to do, and resigned because of it). So they're looking at a white guy who does have coaching experience in Dom Capers. Again that lack of black coaches with previous NFL head coaching experience rears it's ugly head, but why acknowledge that problem when it's so easy to pawn this off as another slight against black coaches. Sidenote: Capers is flat out the wrong guy for a head coaching job. With only one winning season in the last 10 years, you have to be able to find a more qualified candidate.

Jim, decides to get his Def Comedy Jam on with that Al Davis line. And again I say: Art Shell. Davis is a hard-ass, who wants a hard-ass as a coach. He won't discriminate either, Shell is the proof. The fact that he hired Shell, as the first black head coach in the modern era says something. It doesn't say that Al hasn't succumbed to the crazies from all those gold chains, but it does say you're looking in the wrong place.

This year's class of coaching hires is in danger of becoming the Average White Band, just when we thought the coaching fraternity had a chance to become a Rainbow Coalition.

I expect this from Scoop, but you Jim? And honestly, it wouldn't be a rainbow as much as it would be simply a smattering of black and white. Here's hoping Dat Nguyen gets his coach on when he retires!

The nine teams with openings met the requirements of the Rooney Rule and interviewed minority candidates.

Of course they did, everyone saw what happened to the Lions when they didn't.

Those men will be reduced to tokens if all of the coaches who are hired turn out to be white.

And thus the problem with the Rooney Rule. I normally don't agree with a lot Gene Upshaw has to say, but his response (about half way down the page) to the Rooney Rule is common sense. Of course it turns them into tokens if all they're being interviewed for is to comply with the rule. But where then does it leave room for the times when the "black coach" simply wasn't the right guy for the job? That's the problem created by the Rooney Rule and the ridiculousness that accompanies it. Even the players know that it's a silly notion.

And if that, indeed, becomes the case, then we will find ourselves in Phase 3 of NFL minority-hiring trends.

Phase 1 was the bad ol' days, when minorities weren't considered candidates, much less coveted leaders. This lasted as long as the Paleolithic Era, and can be remembered as similarly primitive.

Considering that Phase 1 lasted, according to Jim, around 2.5 million years, I'd say we've made some progress in Phases 2 and 3. (Note to Jim: I get that you don't actually mean that Phase 1 was "as long as the Paleolithic Era", but could you try to put a little more thought into your writing? I know Sid makes fun of you, but when you write things like this you sound like a 6th grader.)

Phase 2 occurred in recent years, leading to this season, when Tony Dungy, Marvin Lewis and Lovie Smith -- half of the NFL's black head coaches -- became coach of the year candidates. (The other three black coaches are Edwards, who has made the playoffs; Dennis Green, who has twice qualified for the NFC title game; and Romeo Crennel, a renowned former defensive coordinator.)

All good coaches, but let's not forget Dungy and Green have been head coaches for a great while longer than just the last few years. Both Lewis and Smith are products of Dungy's system and Crennel got his well-deserved chance after coaching under Belichick for a few years.

Phase 3? That could be occurring this winter, as NFL teams carefully interview minority candidates, nod their heads approvingly, then rush out to hire the white guy with the biggest jaw. (Or, in the Vikings' case, the biggest mustache.)

I think Jim lost it when he started to think about Phase 3. At least he didn't start talking about Childress' mousta...

I just have to know Jim, what proof do you have of this? Please tell me you've got the smoking gun and you're gonna show us all just how bleeped we are now that we're in Phase 3.

You would think the track records of the current black coaches would prompt NFL owners to strongly consider minority candidates. Apparently, the Cover-2 defense and West Coast offense are NFL trends to admire, but hiring a minority as head coach is something you applaud only when others do it.

Okay, maybe you're just ramping up to it. I know, you can't just drop the bomb on us right away.

In any case I'm still perplexed by this line of reasoning. Using this method in hiring is about as asinine as it gets. Can you imagine this same method used in the tech industry. "Well those Asians have performed pretty well in the past..." You don't hire someone because of their skin color. You hire them because they're the right fit for your team, and not because it's a cool trend. I'm not sure who exactly he's referring to when he says "you applaud". Do you have names Jim? That would be a story if you had names of owners or executives you new to do that.

Take the St. Louis Rams. They will hire Scott Linehan, the former Vikings offensive coordinator, over Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, who is Latino.

Linehan vs. Rivera: Doesn't that look like a tossup, or perhaps a matchup slightly favoring Rivera, who ran the Bears' fearsome defense this season?

Linehan is relatively inexperienced. He's talented, promising and a good guy. Which is the way you hear Rivera described.

Not when you look at that Rams defense it's not. Running a defense like the Cover-2 requires a nice chunk of talent on that side of the ball, something that the Rams have very little of and something the Bears have put together piece by piece for the last 5 or so years through free agency and the draft. Do you honestly think Rivera could step in and make that defense as good as the Bears? On the other hand Linehan, while granted not as experienced as I'd like him to be, took a Miami team who was nearly dead last in the NFL offensively to a respectable 16th, with an extremely inconsistent QB. Look at that Rams team. Have they ever been known as a stifling defensive squad? Doesn't Linehan's passing game seem like a pretty decent fit? So, if this argument is a toss up, why then are you finding fault in the Ram's choosing Linehan? I can see if it was a drastic difference, but it's not, and therefore not a good argument.

Take the Vikings. They broke land speed records in hiring Brad Childress, who appears competent but has never been a head coach. Compare his resume to that of, say, Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis or Colts assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, and it's hard to distinguish one from another

Jim, you're not doing a very good job of showing me why these guys are BETTER candidates than the ones that were hired. You're only telling me what I already know, that they're black.

Take the Packers. They hired someone named Mike McCarthy, whose claim to fame was running the so-called offense of the San Francisco 49ers, and developing No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith into the worst quarterback since Marty Domres.

Lewis, Caldwell and Rivera got passed over for this guy?

Admittedly, this is tricky stuff. We all know that if nine teams hire new coaches, at least a couple should, considering the number of black players and assistant coaches in the league, be minorities. But it's tough to say which team is making a mistake.

I have no idea if Childress will be better than Caldwell, or if Linehan will be better than Rivera.

Okay, now we're talking Jim. The Packers hired a guy to make Favre happy and guy that Ted Thompson (GM) can put in a gimp suit and have his way with. I would think Rivera would be a nice choice here, but Brett makes the calls these days and for the Packers it's more about appeasement than it is about building for the future.

It is tricky. Picking a head coach can be a very complex task. But if you can't say which team is making a mistake (and you're assuming they'd be making a mistake by not hiring one of the minority candidates correct?), than you're argument just isn't that strong, in fact it's not really an argument at all. You're basically saying, "Who knows?", and you'd be exactly right.

Each team, in its own vacuum, can justify its hire. And each team, by virtue of the price of NFL franchises and the highly competitive nature of the league, must be allowed to operate without micro-managing interference from the league.

But c'mon, all you NFL bosses, let's get real. If Lions GM Matt Millen, the Inspector Clouseau of sports executives, hires a low-profile white assistant, can it really be a great idea?

I'll wrap this up here. This is where Jim takes an absolute nose-dive and completely throws away anything credible he'd already written. By comparing how all NFL bosses work to how Matt Millen works, he accomplishes nothing more than taking another cheap shot (deservedly or not) at the NFL's most infamous GM. But I guess if you're the type the enjoys lazy writing that doesn't present facts, but rather half-assed attempts at finger pointing, you just may have found that line to be funny.

The bottom line is that for years the coaching situation in the NFL was marred with racism, both subtle and overt (we all remember Phase 1 right?). I applaud the NFL for stepping in, albeit under pressure, to help the league take the next step in it's evolutionary process. While I don't think the Rooney Rule does much to help the cause, I do think the other instruments put into place will help immensely. The coaching intern program is helping former players find an inroads to jobs after they are finished playing. The diversity committee, while responsible for the Rooney Rule, still can be a valuable tool to help the NFL and its teams continue to break the barriers that it has faced for far too long. The numbers will continue to grow as long as there are head coaches dedicated to developing and mentoring younger coaches along.

We can either choose to point out the history or we can acknowledge the history and look forward and see that things ARE getting better, and that we ARE making progress. Perhaps it's not as fast as some would like, and that's okay to think. But, I know that things like this don't change overnight, and for now, as long as we are moving forward, I think that's a big step in and of itself.