The Texans never gave David Culley a chance, and the same can be said of NFL Black coaches. Culley and Miami’s Brian Flores were fired, leaving only one Black head coach in a league that is moving backward in terms of diversity and inclusion.
Despite all of the variations of the Rooney Rule and all of the talk from top executives over the years regarding the NFL’s ostensible dedication to inclusive hiring, here’s the situation heading into the 2022 hiring cycle: In a league dominated by Black players, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin stands out as a Black on-field leader.
Following his first season in Houston, David Culley was fired (three days after Miami sacked Afro Latino Brian Flores). It was yet another setback for the NFL’s Black assistant coaches. Many of them no longer believe the hiring landscape will ever change since club owners have made it quite apparent, via their actions, that only white is correct. There’s no other way to look at it.
Qualified Black assistants are passed over for top coaching opportunities that go to their white counterparts each cycle. And when Black assistants do manage to break past the white ceiling, they had better be miracle workers. Otherwise. Culley can attest to this.
Culley was put up to fail by the Texans, as though they were paid to do so. In The Godfather, Sonny Corleone had a better chance at the Jones Beach Causeway than Culley had in his one season working for club chairman and CEO Cal McNair.
Culley’s options were limited from the start. Culley inherited a mediocre squad that had been handed over by Texans general manager Nick Caserio, and he never worked with Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Watson demanded a move after the McNair family recruited Caserio in January 2021. Several lawsuits were brought against Watson shortly after, alleging sexual assault and inappropriate behavior. According to reports, up to 22 of the lawsuits are still pending. Watson was a healthy scratch for the whole season.
J.J. Watt, a five-time first-team All-Pro and three-time Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year, was also out for the Texans this season. Watt’s request to be released was approved by Houston after last season. The future Hall of Famer is presently a member of the Arizona Cardinals.
Last season, the Texans won four games with Watson and Watt on the roster. Despite the fact that neither of them played for Houston this season, Culley led the squad to four victories, with the players working hard under him to the end. You shouldn’t terminate a coach who has done so. Do you have any idea what you should do? “Thank you,” you should tell him.
Look, it was evident from the start that the McNair family didn’t see Culley as a long-term solution to their head-coaching problem. McNair-pairing Culley’s appeared to be more of an arranged marriage than a love match.
Remember that no African Americans were among the males who filled the first six head coaching positions in the previous hiring cycle, which comprised seven opportunities. It was a smear on the NFL, particularly on commissioner Roger Goodell and his senior lieutenants, who redoubled their efforts before the process began to eradicate this cancer on professional sports’ most successful organization. Culley was unexpectedly chosen by the Texans to fill the final seat.
Culley, who was formerly the associate head coach, passing coordinator, and wide receivers coach for the Baltimore Ravens, became the NFL’s oldest first-time head coach at the age of 65. The former veteran assistant was well-liked by his coaching peers and players, but he wasn’t largely regarded as a top head-coaching contender. With the clock ticking loudly near the end of the cycle, league office executives aggressively encouraged the Texans to take a good look at the pleasant, efficient teacher, according to numerous league officials.
Culley signed a four-year contract worth around $22 million, of which the Texans owe him $17 million. Obviously, that’s a lot of money for a year’s effort. The difficulty is that Culley prefers to stay on the job.
Coaches of color do not want to get compensated for sitting at home. They want the same opportunities to compete and prove their worth as their white peers. The Texans’ decision to give Culley so little to work with and then fire him after only one season is the definition of doing someone dirty. Steve Wilks, the former Arizona head coach, understands.
Wilks was fired by Arizona in 2018, after a season in which he finished 3-13. Joe Judge, on the other hand, was given two seasons to set the New York Giants back a decade. Then there’s Dan Campbell, the head coach of the Detroit Lions.
Campbell, who was employed during the previous cycle like Culley, has a 3-13-1 record this season. He’ll be back next season. The Lions are making progress under Campbell, according to the narrative. OK.
That isn’t meant to imply Campbell should be dismissed. Many Black coaches have bemoaned the double standard that exists in how they are regarded when compared to white coaches in talks with The Undefeated over the years. They also have receipts.
There are currently eight head-coaching positions available. In a single season, the NFL has never had more than eight Black head coaches. With Culley’s firing, the league is moving in the wrong way when it comes to diversity and inclusion in club football operations.
The NFL’s Black coaches are in a difficult spot on the weekend before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And the chances of anything improving at this point are merely a pipe dream.
Jason Reid is The Undefeated’s senior NFL reporter. He enjoys sports, particularly those involving his son and daughter.
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