Moore: Will more white people speak up for Black NFL head coaching candidates?

Greg Moore
Arizona Republic
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, left, talks with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, right, during NFL football training camp practice, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz.

Let’s face it, Black people such as myself can talk about unfairness and equity all we want, but nothing is going to change in the NFL’s head coaching ranks until white people start speaking up.

To recap, there is one African American head coach in the NFL: Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin. And there are eight vacancies: Chicago, Denver, Houston, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Minnesota, Miami and the New York Giants. 

I could point out the reality that there are plenty of highly qualified Black candidates available, including three in Tampa Bay who helped the Buccaneers win the Super Bowl last season, one in Kansas City who won a Super Bowl two seasons ago and Leslie Frazier in Buffalo who has previous head coaching experience and won a Super Bowl as an assistant in Indianapolis … plus he was a starter ON THE 1985 BEARS!

But if I say all that, there will be critics who say that I’m “just playing the race card.”

What we really need are white allies to help make things better by recommending some of their Black friends for head coaching jobs.

“We have one on our staff who I’ve talked at length,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “That’s Vance Joseph. He’s a tremendous coach … I’ve said it the entire year. He is very deserving. He’s been a head coach before, and I think he will be again.”

Joseph, of course, was fired in Denver after two seasons that didn’t go well. But Kingsbury thinks that Joseph would do well with a new opportunity.

“Watching him operate on a day-to-day basis and the respect that the players have for him and how he treats people, I think he’ll be a head coach again in this league in short order,” Kingsbury said.   

Joseph has done great work this season, but he failed to impress in his national audition, a playoff loss to the Rams on Monday night. His defense was responsible for 27 of LA’s 34 points. 

His counterpart that night, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, made the most of his opportunity to get back to a No. 1 spot.

LA head coach Sean McVay, who is white, praised Morris’s side of the ball.

“I think it was one of the best performances in playoff history in the first half,” McVay said after the game. “Being able to hold a really explosive offensive like that. Being able to get a defensive touchdown, a couple turnovers ... The coaches put together a great game plan.”

A former general manager, Scott Pioli, who is white, took it a step further, putting a spotlight on several Black candidates for head coaching positions, but it started with heaping praise on Green Bay’s Jerry Gray, who led the Packers’ defense as an interim coordinator against the Cardinals in Week 8.

“Jerry was a two-time All-American at Texas. He played nine years in the NFL. Four of those years, he was a Pro Bowl player. He’s now been coaching 27 years, many of them in the NFL,” said Pioli, a Super Bowl-winning executive who’s held front-office positions in New England, Kansas City and Atlanta.

“He was charged with coordinating and play calling for a defense that was getting ready to face the No. 1 offense in the NFL. He knocked it out of the park.”

The Packers held the Cardinals to just 21 points. Arizona had been averaging 32 points per game before that.

Pioli went on to acknowledge Todd Bowles, Jim Caldwell, Marvin Lewis, Joseph, Morris, Frazier and several others in an analysis for

“This is not a list of buzzy names accumulated via second-hand information, nor is it a comprehensive rundown of every qualified minority candidate,” Pioli wrote. “I have made a concerted effort over the years to closely observe the following coaches in person and/or spend time with them.”

The names he vouched for “provide just a slice of the innumerable minority candidates who deserve a closer look.”

And perhaps this can help make things better.

Because, let’s face it, Black people such as myself can talk about unfairness and equity all we want, but nothing is going to change in the NFL’s head coaching ranks until white people start speaking up.

That goes double for fans who want to see winning football.

Reach Moore at or 602-444-2236. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @SayingMoore.

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