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Ron Rivera calls lack of minority hires disheartening

Ron Rivera

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera shoots a photo with his cell phone during the first half of an NBA basketball game between the Charlotte Bobcats and the Los Angeles Lakers in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)


When it comes to minority hiring, the NFL this year came within one vacancy of mimicking the 2008 Lions, going 0-for-15 in coaching and G.M. positions.

Despite a fairly vocal contingent of fans who seem to not understand the impact of state and federal laws against race discrimination, the NFL realizes its owners can’t hire whomever they want to hire. And so the NFL rightly is disappointed by the recent trend.

One of the few remaining minority head coaches in the NFL addressed the dynamic in comments to Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer, calling the lack of minority hires “disheartening.”

“I’ll give you a name, Perry Fewell,” Rivera said, referring to the Giants defensive coordinator. “He’s a great coach and I really think he should have been in the cycle.”

Fewell, as far as we can tell, didn’t even get an interview this year.

“This guy went to the Super Bowl last year and helped design a [heck of a] defense,” Rivera said. “Sometimes you do sit there and go, ‘Wow, some guys do get overlooked,’ and it’s happened to me, too. Hopefully Perry will have a great opportunity next year.”

Rivera may have a point. The last time the Giants won the Super Bowl, their defensive coordinator (Steve Spagnuolo) immediately became a “hot” head-coaching candidate. A year later, he went to the Rams. Three years later, he was fired. One year later, he was fired again as defensive coordinator of the Saints.

Regardless of race, the problem becomes that owners allow themselves to get caught up in whomever the media identifies as the “hot” candidate, locking in on a name before doing proper due diligence. For whatever reason, the “hot” name far more often than not belongs to a white coach. (Maybe the media isn’t as liberal as everyone assumes.)

And while we agree with Rivera’s observations on minority coaching hires, we need to mention -- and to disagree with -- another comment he made about his quarterback, Cam Newton.

“It kind of bothers me when people say, ‘Well Cam is a black quarterback,’” Rivera said. “Well, he’s a quarterback. Aren’t we past that yet?”

Unless I’m missing something, I think we are past that. Though improvements clearly are needed when it comes to hiring coaches, coaches have become color blind when it comes to quarterbacks. I’m not aware of anyone calling Cam Newton or any other current African-American signal-caller a “black quarterback.” (I’m wrong, please correct me with links pasted in the comments.)

They’re all quarterbacks, regardless of skin color. Hopefully, one day, they’ll all be coaches, too. Without regard to any superficial factor that has no bearing on ability, intelligence, or character.

While no owner or other employer will ever declare that decisions of this kind are being made at least in part based on rate, the numbers are what they are. And the numbers are, as the NFL freely admits, disappointing.