NFL team executives are apparently laser-focused on hiring and retaining coaches that have a certain look and demeanor: white, regimented and bullheaded. Unfortunately, their obsession doesn’t always work out.
The league suffered its latest public embarrassment Monday when Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden resigned after multiple media outlets reported on emails he sent in recent years that contained homophobic, misogynistic and racist language.
The emails were reportedly uncovered during a NFL investigation into potential workplace misconduct involving the Washington Football Team. The team's former general manager, Bruce Allen, had been the recipient of some of Gruden’s emails.
The NFL is examining more than 650,000 emails as part of its sprawling probe, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s right: The Gruden emails are likely only the tip of the iceberg. And trust me when I say, I can’t wait for more NFL emails to drop.
Gruden sent the offensive emails to Allen, his longtime friend, between 2011 to 2018, The New York Times reported. In those emails, Gruden maligned female referees; called for a player to be fired for protesting police brutality; used homophobic slurs to insult the league commissioner and NFL player Michael Sam, who is gay; exchanged seminude photos of women, including some Washington Football Team cheerleaders; and used a racist trope to describe DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association.
When it comes to Gruden and coaching hires generally, the question is not how the league could be so wrong. The question is, “Why is the NFL committed to being so wrong, and for so long?” Brusque white guys seem to get preferential consideration for coaching positions, and all others get the leftovers — if they’re lucky.
Gruden was a coveted coaching candidate who was plucked from his role as an ESPN football analyst in 2018 to return as the Raiders’ head coach. He walked out of the commentators’ booth and into one of the biggest coaching contracts in NFL history, signing on for $100 million over 10 years. Gruden’s return to coaching came just two years before the NFL began making assurances that it would improve its dismal record of hiring Black and brown coaches.
Gruden isn't the only former NFL coach to walk away and be lured back in with a rich contract. Take scandal-ridden Urban Meyer, for example.
Brusque white guys seem to get preferential consideration for coaching positions, and all others get the leftovers — if they’re lucky.
Meyer, who was hired as the coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars this year, made headlines last week after being caught on camera dancing on a woman who is not his wife. He’d previously left his job coaching Ohio State football after allowing an assistant coach to continue working despite the coach's ex-wife accusing him of domestic abuse.
During a news conference in January, Jaguars owner Shahid Khan called Meyer “the man we want and need in Jacksonville.” It was cringeworthy then, and it’s still cringeworthy now. When Raiders owner Mark Davis welcomed Gruden, he thanked Gruden’s family for “helping to make my dream come true.”
There’s no doubt NFL team owners prefer coaches like Gruden running their operations, but they shouldn’t be so confident. The coaches of their dreams could be nightmares in disguise.
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