DAVE OWENS: We're Blind to One of the NFL's Biggest Problems
Dave Owens, Special to The Informer | 8/17/2013, 4:47 p.m.
"When you have an opportunity to present yourself, you better be ready," he said. "Don't wait and say 'Hey, affirmative action is going to be the reason I get a shot.' No, the reason that you can stay and have longevity is because what you're offering is going to help players realize their full potential as well as help your team to win."
Raheem Morris, currently defensive backs coach for the Washington Redskins, agrees. Morris, who at 32 was the youngest coach in the NFL when he took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008, recorded a 17-31 record in three seasons, including a 10-6 campaign in 2010.
"Your job is to get those jobs, go out there and win and you can keep those jobs," Morris said. "We as African-American coaches have to know how the business works so when you get put in those positions to go run a multi-million dollar organization you're prepared and you're ready. Having to do it at 32 was I ready? No chance, nobody would be, but when you get them it would be nice to go out and take advantage of them."
When coaches can't take advantage they get fired. For an African-American coach, the road back to a head coaching position is often littered with more roadblocks than their white counterparts. Morris has yet to get the call from a team to become defensive coordinator again, a position he held at Tampa Bay and Kansas State University.
I asked him how frustrating it is to see white counterparts such as Scott Linehan (Lions), Bill Callahan (Cowboys), Pat Shurmur (Eagles) or Jack Del Rio (Broncos) get fired from head coaching positions but still land back in coordinator roles.
"I have a different mental toughness," he said. "If I start looking at other people and getting jealous of other people that's going to affect me and who I am. I refuse to let that happen, right now I'm the defensive backs coach for the Washington Redskins and I have to be the best defensive backs coach I can in order for me to get my next opportunity as a defensive coordinator for anybody.
Mad respect to Morris for that answer. Meanwhile, he and other minority coaches soldier on, doing their jobs hoping for that next opportunity to move up the ladder. It has got to be tough, however, making that climb and having to look over and see a guy like Titans' senior assistant defensive coach Gregg Williams, who was smack dab in the middle of the "Bountygate" scandal, fall from grace and still land in a position higher than yours.
The racial divide when it comes to NFL coaching at the highest level is grossly out of whack, and the league needs to address it immediately.
Dave Owens is a sports anchor/reporter at WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C., and a professor of journalism at the University of Maryland. Contact him on Twitter @DaveOwensWUSA.