What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
We go through this every year at this time when the National Football League’s “coaching carousel” is in it’s “on-boarding” phase. Every year, when coaches get hired by NFL team, there’s a sense of hand-wringing coming from the media over the number of minorities getting these jobs. As a black man who has made his career in business management for close to a quarter-century, I had a level of sensitivity to this issue. That was until I heard ESPN’s Adam Schefter take such a wormy, duplicitous position on this issue I had no choice but to re-evaluate my own.
The starting point for this re-evaluation is I immediately question anybody who tries to play both sides of an issue; I simply do not trust fence-sitters. You never really know what they believe, and it’s entirely possible they will abandon their true beliefs given the correct amount of pressure. That is also the genesis of “political correctness;” an exercise in the suppression of communication for the sake of not offending anybody. In either case, my skepticism all across this issue comes from the old adage about “the truth hurts.”
Let me focus in on what Schefter said. In one breath, Schefter spoke of Joe Judge and Matt Rhule being hired as NFL head coaches in terms of (paraphrasing) they were qualified candidates who had impeccable credentials.” But in the next breath, he launched into the annual rant about the number of minority head coaches in the NFL by calling the current situation “embarrassing.”
In my mind, those statements are mutually exclusive. Sports are the purest form of meritocracy; be they on the field, the sideline, or the front office. Jobs are given to those who are believed to have the best chance of success. In the case of the NFL, these are decisions which are not made lightly as billions of dollars and the livelihoods of many people are involved. So, when I hear discussion of such hires in terms of “qualified” and “impeccable credentials,” I tend to believe whoever said that must also believe in meritocracy.
But when that same person not two seconds later says that these hires are “embarrassing,” not only is my perception of their belief of meritocracy shattered, but now I must question what that person really thinks. Concomitantly, once I’m not confident of what somebody really believes, I don’t know what to make of their message.
In the case of Schefter, his duplicitous message certainly comes across as “meritocracy works, but only when white guys don’t get hired.” I don’t think Adam Schefter is a racist, but he’s certainly leaving open the possibility to draw such a conclusion; all because he doesn’t want to be seen as saying Judge and Rhule don’t deserve the jobs they got. I’m not sure what other conclusion I’m supposed to draw; “embarrassing” is a particularly strong term.
What’s getting lost in all of this is something on which I think Schefter and I would be in agreement. The NFL’s “Rooney Rule” is nothing short of a dismal failure. The “Rooney Rule” states that minority candidates must be interviewed for head coaching and senior football operation jobs; the idea being this would increase the number of minorities in such roles. The simple fact is that has not happened. In other words, if you’re a guy like Schefter who likely believes that’s a situation in need of addressing, why would you not make your message clear?
The answer to that is simple…because the truth hurts.
Schefter, and many like him are simply having a hard time coming to the reality that effecting social change takes more than table-pounding and wishing it into existence. When the “Rooney Rule” came about in 2003, the social engineers in and around the NFL thought they had cured the NFL of all that ails it. They failed, and they don’t want to come to terms with that. They never thought they would need to because of the blanket of faux moralism the social justice crowd wraps itself in. There’s so many mechanical reasons why they failed it rates an article of their own. But there’s one main failing whose discussion ends all agreement between guys like Schefter and me.
In terms of truth, get ready for the real pain. The fundamental flaw in every “Rooney Rule/Affirmative Action” style of initiative stems from the fact they departure completely from Martin Luther King Jr’s. dream of people being judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.
If you doubt that, consider the following. The entire idea of the “Rooney Rule” is simple…it’s all about numbers and not merit. Schefter and his ilk will never admit this, but an institute named for the NFL’s first black head coach does it all the time. The Fritz Pollard Alliance keeps quoting numbers that sound like quotas…things like the 70% of the players in the NFL are black, but the league only has “X” head coaches and “Y” general managers.
I could never understand why that’s supposed to be a solution. First of all, it ignores the fact that the skill set to be a player is not the same for being a coach, much like what’s makes somebody a great coach doesn’t make them a great general manager. That’s why I’m not interested in solving for “X” and “Y”; I think the people holding the jobs of player, coach, and general manager should be the best people. That’s because I believe in content of character…which is the sole of merit.
If you still are taking umbrage with that, please answer the following questions:
The third question is the key to all of this. The NFL has college football for player development, and the skill set to be an NFL player is well-defined. But you cannot say the same about coaches and general managers. The NFL is not a league which develops talent at any level; it poaches it from other places, or worse yet, engages in “sink or swim” on-the-job training. Why do you think the concept of the “coaching tree” exists? Because an NFL team looking to hire somebody for it coaching ranks of the front office has really only two pools from which to choose. They can hire a college guy or they can poach somebody from another NFL team. That’s why you get so many “second-time around” guys because as the cliché says…it’s the devil you know versus the devil you don’t.
To me, that makes it clear where the opportunity is. If the goal is diversity, then the solution lies in the creation of a diverse pool of qualified candidates. If diversity is truly the goal, that should be obvious.
So, why do the Schefters of the world never talk about building mechanisms for developing the skills sets in candidates for the “X” and “Y” jobs? After all, the need becomes even more apparent if you do a bit of “turnabout is fair play” with the “quota” concept. How many coaches and general managers have at least a bachelor’s degree versus how many of the players do?
There’s the key. The NFL needs a change, but it also needs an acceptance of the reality that change is hard, and doesn’t happen overnight. The “Rooney Rule” is an abject failure, largely because it’s the NFL’s version of “affirmative action,” which little more than “Jim Crow” dressed up in 21st century liberalism because it doesn’t eliminate racism…it just shifts the focus.
Adam Schefter can bloviate all he wants, but there’s nothing more embarrassing than the fact he sounds like he would rather defend fighting racism with racism than consider an actual solution.
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I don’t blame Schefter. He’s just a man speaking out of both sides of his mouth just like everyone else employed by that corporation.
Look no further than the majority of NFL ownership to find your real problem.