Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Feb 2013

MMQB: Combine Time

This week Peter looks at who has the most at stake at the combine, talks about the future of Alex Smith, and sounds off on the lack of minority coaches.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 18 Feb 2013

47 comments, Last at 21 Feb 2013, 8:45am by fmtemike


by JonFrum :: Mon, 02/18/2013 - 7:10pm

"Money raised for pediatric cancer research by Penn State students over the long weekend through the annual 46-hour THON dance marathon: $12,374,034.46.

That's $12 million. What did you do over the weekend?"

I was busy making sure that no one I knew thought that I would ever make excuses for a man who ignored and covered up child rape on his watch.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 11:47am

So Penn State students shouldn't try to do something good?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 4:48pm

You must loathe Carnegie Mellon and University of Virginia.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 5:36pm

I gave $50. SFS.

by MatMan :: Mon, 02/18/2013 - 8:03pm

The NFL is a crucible for coaches as much as for players. As more black coaches work their way up the ladder, they'll be in more and more head coaching interviews. The ones that are good enough will get hired, pigmentation be damned. Based on slow turnover, I'm comfortable calling the NFL head-coaching ranks a trailing indicator of racial harmony. I find it really, really hard to believe that any --let alone most-- GMs sit around thinking, "there'll be no black head coach on my team, consarn it." This isn't the town bowling league.

by markus (not verified) :: Mon, 02/18/2013 - 11:16pm

I doubt anybody sits around saying they'll never hire a black coach, but people do tend to hire people they're most comfortable with and there's virtually zero black guys in front office positions. And it is rather telling that while the young white prodigy getting a coordinator or even head coaching job is fairly common, we're still waiting for that to happen to a minority candidate. There's never been a young black coach as impressive as Lane Kiffin or Josh McDaniels? I also wonder if ownership would have been nearly as understanding with a Tony Dungy deciding to bring his sons aboard in top positions as they were when Mike Shanahan did it.

by Jerry :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 3:46am

Does Mike Tomlin count?

I agree with MatMan that race really isn't a factor in coaching hires anymore. I also understand the concern of the Black Coaches Association when no blacks are hired, but one year isn't enough to level charges.

by Insancipitory :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 5:38am

Given Lovie Smith's resume, I think it's a valid question. The only candidate with credentials on par with him was Andy Reid.

by dryheat :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 9:36am

What credentials are these? Getting his team to the playoffs once in the past six years? In today's NFL, that seems like enough ammunition to sack anybody. He's a good coach, and I'm sure he'll get picked up in the next hiring cycle, but is there a significant difference between he and say, Eric Mangini? He doesn't have a fraction of the resume Reid does. I don't see the injustice if a team wants to try a younger, up-and-coming coach rather than a veteran.

I think the NCAA is the body that really needs some sort of Rooney Rule, as much as I think anybody needs somebody else to tell them who they must interview for a job.

by Insancipitory :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 12:22pm

Win percentage? Superbowl appearance? Being competitive in a tough division and against a perenial superbowl contender with back to back HoF QBs? Man, Bears fans deserve the consistantly 4-12 team they've purged from their collective memories. He took over a laugher of a team and in a passing league he won consistantly in the style Bears fans wanted and because he didn't win that superbowl with Rex Grossman, his almost Bill Parcell's win percentage makes him Mangini-esque.

There are no words.

by dryheat :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 2:08pm

It's a results business, or more to the point, a recent results business. Failing to make the playoffs four years running is a firable offense in the NFL, and not one that usually leads to suitors lining up at your door. Mangini was an (admittedly undeserved) co-ordinator of the year with the Patriots, took a poor Jets team to the playoffs, failed to make the playoffs the next two years, got fired. Failed to make the playoffs two years in Cleveland, and is now nailed to the analyst's chair. Are there many Head Coaches in recent years that have survived a stretch of no playoff appearances in four years?

by RickD :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 8:11pm

The Bears won the NFC North in 2010. They even made the NFC championship game.

by dryheat :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 11:29pm

Of course. My timeline went sideways for a while. 2010 was their only playoff appearance on the past 6 seasons.

by Steve in WI :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 10:59am

I don't think anyone blames Lovie Smith for the Bears failing to beat the Colts in the Super Bowl; on the contrary, it's pretty amazing that they were able to get there with Rex Grossman at QB. But that was six years ago. Since then, they've made the playoffs once (winning one game, against the worst team by record ever to make the playoffs). Their offense has been consistently awful in the past six years, and while I don't think a team needs a top five offense to win a Super Bowl if their defense is as good as the Bears' has been, it needs to be at least decent.

Win percentage can be deceiving. Yes, the Bears went 10-6 this past season. Most years, that's good enough for a playoff berth. They also went 3-5 in the second half of the season, and arguably did not beat any good teams the entire year.

I actually like Lovie Smith quite a bit and I'm rooting for him to be successful in the future, but I'm glad the Bears decided to make a change. I think Smith's two fatal flaws were his inability to find a solid offensive coordinator and his faith in mediocre players to somehow become great. If he can change those things, I think he'll be a better head coach, and as I said I think he'd be one of the best defensive coordinators in the game. I just don't think it's absurd that he was fired or that he didn't get another head coaching job this year.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 11:43am

I don't know...I think looking at Lovie Smith's tenure in Chicago, I would have serious questions about hiring him as a head coach at least this year. He's a great defensive mind, but he showed a total inability to hire the right offensive people and evaluate talent. I bet he could have easily gotten a job as defensive coordinator for next year if he had been interested. (I also think he'll get another head coaching job in the future...I just don't think that his credentials are so amazing that it's suspicious that he wasn't hired right away after being fired by the Bears).

by dryheat :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 12:11pm

Or Leslie Frazier? Or Raheem Morris?

I really don't think that anything more than time is needed. There are many, many, black positional coaches at the NFL, and they will continue to get opportunities to co-ordinate. The most successful of these will get opportunities to be the head coach.

by markus (not verified) :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 2:58pm

Frazier was 50 when he got a head job and had been coaching since 1988. Not exactly on a par with Kiffin or McDaniels. Morris is a good example since he was I believe 32 when the Bucs hired him. It will be interesting to see how quickly (if ever) he gets another shot given his 10-6 season was better than McDaniels ever managed and people seem to take it for granted that McDaniels will get another shot despite how bad he was in Denver.

by dryheat :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 3:07pm

I honestly had no idea Frazier was that old.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 10:52pm

Ah, the irony. PK is worried about racism in coaching hires, but I recall him publishing a total hatchet job of Rahem Morris after he was fired, based on unnamed sources with lots of vague accusations. Now, I'm not doubting PK would have written that about a Caucasian coach, too, but if he's that concerned about minorities getting a fair shake, maybe he could have raised his standards in that case.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 11:59am

The despicable amount of nepotism in the NFL coaching ranks is probably holding minority coaches back too. As long as the old boys network keeps pushing the likes of Kyle Shanahan into top jobs it's going to stop deserving minority candidates reaching the top.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 4:51pm

For everyone out there who thinks that the good old boy network doesn't exist for black coaches, I present to you: Romeo Crennel.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 02/18/2013 - 8:06pm

I agree with PK that Te'o will need to nail his interview with teams, but I disagree that it won't matter much how he works out at the combine.

He looked overpowered in that Alabama game and there were already some questions about his speed, so he can't afford to look weak or slow.. And a low Wonderlic wouldn't be good, either, given he's looked pretty dumb with the whole girlfriend thing.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 02/18/2013 - 8:19pm

"Don't you get the feeling that, whenever possible, David Stern likes to put the needle into the NFL?"

No doubt true, given how precious few areas he can do that. Maybe the handling of the bounties, but that would seemingly be offset by the referee bribery scandal the NBA had a few years back. The Maloof brothers make basically any NFL owner look positively awesome. There are still NBA teams supposedly not making any money, poorly conceived moves like the Hornets where the club wound up in a poor location while the league felt forced to give an expansion team to the abandoned city.... And now the union chief Billy Hunter is finally officially under investigation. Pick any image problem you can for the NFL and the NBA has it worse.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 02/18/2013 - 11:26pm

Non-"Mr. Starwood Preferred Member" Note on the Travel Note of the Week :

I don't understand the complaints about an entire airline stemming from sitting in a middle coach seat. Somebody has to sit there, assuming the flights are full. Just because he didn't book early enough to get an aisle or window is no reason to call out the entire airline.

Although it would be great if any airline could afford to eliminate the middle seats...

by jackiel :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 9:08am

You obviously don't know too many business travelers. Every single slight/inconvenience that leisure travelers would chalk up to life is a cause for intense outrage for them. King was mainly upset that his status as a "preferred flyer" and TV personality didn't get him any special treatment like an upgrade.

by iron_greg :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 7:21pm

Watching FO shill for a writer as awful as Peter King is sad. The guy has done no original reporting, I cant even believe people give this guy any cred. Its a page of "things I think" which are all hilariously obvious like "ravens should keep Joe Flacco", a page for his personal musings on traveling in hotels, and the first page which is copy and paste of other reporters.

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 8:54pm

I often wonder if the lack of black coaches is a result of affirmative action. I mean let's say you're a pretty smart black guy (and let's further assume that being smart helps a lot at being smart about football and further that being smart about football helps a lot in getting coaching jobs). What is the road that is going to take you to being an nfl coach?

Let's assume, because it's true of most coaches, that you weren't actually a very good player but were good enough to play in college, maybe division 1, but definitely not in the big leagues. Affirmative action is gonna get you into a very good college, and then it's going to get you a peachy high-paying corporate/government job because employers love affirmative action as do the best grad schools, and employers also, for reasons passing understanding, love athletes. Also, because you are at a high-end college surrounded by other overachievers you're going to be part of a culture that says "go for the high paying corporate/government job," and like most smart people you're risk-averse and tend toward being rather sheeplike.

Now compare that to being a barely-paid college assistant working 60 hour weeks and moving every 2-4 years. Why would you ever do that? I don't think it's a coincidence that nfl coaches generally went to mediocre schools for undergrad. (a tiny few went to great schools of course)

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 10:36pm

Congratulations, you win the Grindstone Award for best axe-grinding.

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 11:26pm

huh? what're you talking about? I'm not complaining. I'm saying they've got better options. The NFL has been priced out of the marketplace for that block of talent.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 11:39pm

You don't really understand how affirmative action works, do you? There have been a lot of stupid comments on this site (I am the author of several) but this one truly stands on a mountain top above all the other stupid comments and loudly pronounces itself the stupidest. Look in the mirror and realize that you have an issue with race. The idea that "pretty smart black guy" gets into "very good college" for no reason other than the color of his skin is so ridculously ignorant.

by AAhuh (not verified) :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 5:10pm

Could you explain then, to those of us that are ignorant, what exactly affirmative action is? If its not preferential treatment based on racial differences (which supposedly don't exist because they are socially constructed), then what is it? In any case, even with A.A. policies in existence, its still difficult to find enough candidates in each "under-represented" category in order to appease people, so the charge becomes, "We still aren't doing enough." Well, what should we be doing?

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 7:56pm

I'm not trying to get into an argument about Affirmative Action. I was taking issue with the implications of Cookie's argument, which are as follows:
- Minorities with weaker resumes are given preference over whites with stronger resumes. That's not what A.A. does - it is intended for individuals with similar CVs.
- Minorities don't have to work as hard to get ahead in life because of A.A.
- If a minority does get into a good school, or get a "peachy government job" (do those really exist in abundance?) or corporate job, it's partially because of affirmative action. (Think about being a minority in a workplace where that attitude is prevalent)

Say what you want about affirmative action, but the end game is that you shouldn't know whether an applicant received its benefits because they are at least as qualified for the position/school as anyone else. I'm neither in favor of it nor am I against it, but to attack minorities (however accidentally) for being handed an easy-path in life because of it is pretty ignorant.

by AAhuh (not verified) :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 8:31pm

Fair enough, everything you said is true, though it seems many are calling for proportional representation (i.e. quotas, which are supposed to be illegal). I would argue that at the very least token positions do exist in certain institutions. A bit off-topic, but I have one of those peachy government jobs you speak of, and let me tell you its amazing how little is expected of me and how great my benefits are. Back on point, I don't think minorities get an easy pass with A.A., and I can understand how those who succeed are faced with an ignorant stigma from people assuming the minority in question only got to where they are because of their race. What bothers me, however, are the constant cries of systemic racism and under-representation without considering any relevant compounding variables. There aren't any easy answers, and I should probably leave it at that.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Thu, 02/21/2013 - 1:59am

There are arguments to be made on both sides, and this isn't the forum for a discussion on race in America. I suppose I am somewhat responsible for the origin of this back and forth. I was just directing some vitriol at the original poster for his sadly uninformed and pretty offensive diatribe about why there aren't as many black coaches.

by dbt :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 3:42am

My offhand estimate, and I haven't actually run the numbers, is that african american coaches tend to come up as either defensive coaches or running backs coaches, and right now teams are loading up on offensive coaches to run teams because offenses are generally dominant at the moment.

Note I am saying nothing about aptitude or ability or possibly racism in the GM/ownership ranks; it could simply be random sampling. The NFL, as we are fond of noting around here, is an awfully small sample size. I don't know the people involved to judge them one way or the other.


P.S. This means hue jackson should get another job. He got Oakland to an 8-8 record 2 years in a row! Nobody else has gotten them above 5 wins since 2002.

P.P.S. Lovie needs to learn how to evaluate an offense before he gets another HC job; I hope he does and I wish him well.

by ammek :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 5:15am

I agree, this is part of it. It's not just offensive coaches that are in demand, it's particularly guys with experience coaching quarterbacks. These tend to be ex-QBs themselves. And the QBs of twenty years ago were overwhelmingly white. The inequalities are structural and deep-rooted, and they are (re-)produced at every level from Pop Warner to the NFL.

The eight head coaches in the divisional playoffs last season were all white. How many of their co-ordinators were black? I can't think of many. My team, the Packers, has never had a black GM, and hasn't employed a black co-ordinator this century. I don't think it's ever had a black QB coach. It's hard to argue with the appointments the Packers have made given how successful they have been, but at the same time it's inconceivable that there hasn't been a single worthy minority candidate for any of those posts (or that the Ray Rhodes experience has traumatized the organization into kneejerk discrimination).

by TV_Pete (not verified) :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 10:16am

Playing in a professional sport requires different set of qualities than coaching.

African-Americans (or negros or blacks or those of African descent, if you will) tend to have higher percentage of fast-twitch muscles that are beneficial to running fast. They also to have less subcutaneous body fat, leaving them more vulnerable to cold injuries and better suited to working in hotter climates/environments.

This leaves many African-Americans better suited to working in the NFL and NBA.

African-Americans represent about 12% of the population in the US, but represent the vast majority of the NBA and NFL due to their physical advantages on the playing field.

However, coaching a sport does not require the advantages of running fast, jumping high, or other aspects related to fast-twitch muscles. Hence, coaching and front office work in some part may be more closely related to the general population %'s than those who play in the sport.

Ownership tends to require money and usually a history of money which has not historically been represented by African Americans (yet, at least - a group of former players could choose to pursue ownership of a team if they believed it was a good investment).

by ammek :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 12:53pm


by dryheat :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 2:28pm

His 4th and 5th paragraphs are right on the money though. It puzzles me when I hear things like "68% of the NFL players are Black...it's a joke that only 10% of the Head Coaches and Co-Ordinators are Black."

What does one have to do with the other? Shouldn't we expect the racial make-up of Coaches to resemble that of the general population? I was not athletically gifted enough to play in the NFL or D1 college, but there's no reason that I couldn't become a HC or Co-Ordinators at that level had I embarked on that career path.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 3:50pm

One point is that a large percentage of coaches in the NFL have played football at a high level. Maybe not all in the NFL, but in colleges around the country. The choice set of NFL coaching candidates isn't the general public.

by dryheat :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 6:14pm

No, very few NFL HCs and NCAA HCs have played football at a high level. And the two that come immediately to mind as NFLers (Harbaugh and Fisher) are white. Payton as a backup scab QB. Frazier. There may be a few others, but Romeo didn't. If Tomlin did, it's news to me.

The proper universe of candidates is whomever knows the game and is willing to put the time in, regardless of being athletically gifted enough to play at the highest levels. Singletary was a bust. Ditka post 85 was terrible. I don't think GMs particularly care if their Coach was a great football player or not, but maybe they do.

by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 02/21/2013 - 4:33am

I mentioned that I was counting college football as a "high level".

Jason Garrett, Gary Kubiak both played in the NFL. So did Doug Marrone, Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera and Mike Munchak.

My overall point is that the talent pool to choose from for NFL head coaches isn't representative of the general public, but assistant coaches. I am sure the ethnic demographics of assistant coaches has a higher percentage of african-american's than does the general public. To say that because 10% of the public is african-american means that the percentage of head coaches (or coordinators) that are african-american is an insignificant difference is not true because the available talent for those roles contains a higher percentage of african-americans.

by AAhuh (not verified) :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 5:14pm

Did he say anything that was factually incorrect? I assume when he speaks of fast-twitch muscle fibers, and low body-fat he means people of West-African ancestry. Do you deny this?

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 6:58pm

The whole thing about fast-twitch muscles and low body fat is a myth concocted by people motivated to amplify racial differences. Of course, it doesn't say anything about social and economic factors.

by AAhuh (not verified) :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 8:58pm

I tried posting a longer comment, but apparently it was regraded as spam. Everywhere has gone PC! You aren't wrong about socioeconomic factors, but you might want to also consider the impact of population genetics. If you don't think that distinct ethnic groups share certain genes in much higher proportion than other ethnic groups, than you really aren't being fair-minded. Black, white, etc. is far too simplistic, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 11:05pm

A somewhat old but interesting article in SI related to this topic. It's very inconclusive, and I wonder if there was ever a follow up?


I'm guessing that there are scholarly, scientific journal papers out there dealing with this, but heck if I know where to find them easily.

by fmtemike :: Thu, 02/21/2013 - 8:45am

Can I point out to PKing and to Dryheat that it should be 'between HIM and...' not 'between he and....'. The choice is between him and me, not between he and I.