he The NFL has long been known for it’s lack of diversity as it pertains to ownership, general managers and coaches. In a league where nearly 70% of it’s employees are Black. In an effort to fix the huge disparity in those areas the NFL has stressed hiring qualified minority general managers and head coaches. While the head coaching hires haven’t increased much, with just three Black head coaches and five total minority coaches, there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of general managers hired. In the last 12 general manager hires, six have been African-American, including five of the last six.
There are currently seven African-American general managers in the NFL. This offseason the Bears hired Ryan Poles, and the Vikings hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Those two join Martin Mayhew (Commanders), Terry Fontenot (Falcons), Brad Holmes (Lions) Andrew Berry (Browns) and the longest tenured of the seven Chris Grier (Dolphins).
Cowboys roster builder and personnel man Will McClay has turned down numerous opportunities to be a GM or it could’ve easily been 7 of the last 12 hires. In all it’s been a huge jump compared to where those numbers stood prior to the hiring spree.
Relationships Play A Role In Being Hired:
Poles and McClay credit their positional rise to the strong relationships they’ve been able to build throughout their time in the league.
In fact, C. Keith Harrison a sports medicine professor at UCF, who’s the lead author of the NFL Diversity and Inclusion Report took it a little further saying this.
“People say time is money. Trust is money, and people invest in relationships that they trust. We have data that when you network and connect, engage with people that are different from you by gender and race, you better have a better chance of being what we call upwardly mobile.”
That sounds a lot like it’s not what you know, but rather who you know.
McClay says is vital that NFL owners which is 96 percent white men, gets to know the minority candidates. Which goes back to trust and confidence that they can do the job.
“Jerry didn’t know me until I got to be able to spend time with, talk to him, to let him know how much I knew about football, how much I knew about relationships, and trying to get that together.
“He wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t get that opportunity.”
New Bears GM, Ryan Poles shares those same sentiments and credits his relationship with former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli as a huge boost for him and other minority candidates.
Will GM Hires Lead To More Black HC Hires?
With seven Black GMs currently in tow, one has to wonder if we’ll see more Blacks get head coach opportunities. It’s cool to see Blacks as coordinators and position coaches, but there’s also plenty of qualified Blacks who can lead a team. Currently only Mike Tomlin (Steelers), Lovie Smith (Texans) and Todd Bowles (Buccaneers) can say stake claim to be a head coach. That’s just three out of 32 NFL franchises. Add in Ron Rivera (Commanders) and Robert Saleh (Jets) and that’s just five minority head coaches in the entire NFL.
And while seven GMs isn’t a ton it’s a little better than 20 percent. Still much higher than the roughly 10 percent that represents the HC fraternity.