(Disclaimer facts/figures/hires all correct at the time of writing - Feb 5th 2021)
Back in November 2020 the team owners and the commissioner Roger Goodell approved a scheme that would hopefully kick start the hiring of minority employees into the general managers and head coaches of the future.
Why is this relevant I hear you ask?
Brad Holmes, Aaron Glenn, Duce Staley, Aubrey Pleasant and Kelvin Sheppard are why it's relevant. The Lions have recently hired all these personnel in the off-season to the coaching roster for the '21 season and hopefully longer.
In an NFL survey back in 2014, it was calculated that approximately 68% of players were African-American and about 28% were white, which was projected to grow to around 70% would be AA by the 2020 season. In a league that's nearly 2/3 African-American when it comes to players, why is it that when it comes to coaching hires at the highest level, minorities are struggling to breakthrough?
For some context here are some notable hires/promotions this off-season -
Robert Saleh (Jets) - first Muslim HC
Sean Desai (Bears) - first coordinator of Indian descent
Jennifer (King) - first full-time black female coach
To get a better understanding of this I've taken a look at every HC/GM combo now they've all been appointed to see just how big the divide is between white hires and minority hires; now when I say minority I've looked online the NFL doesn't exactly state what it means by minority colour, religion, sex or race but we'll assume it's a mix of those; right now of the 32 teams there are only 5 minority general managers and only 4 minority head coaches (Rivera, Tomlin, Flores and Saleh [according to Wikipedia])
How the league plans to even the playing field and give more opportunities to minority coaches is by compensating teams who lose a minority coach or executive who has been employed for 2yrs, with no break in employment to another team who becomes their HC or GM with a 3rd round draft pick for two consecutive years / if a team loses a minority coach and an executive who both move on to become a GM and HC they will receive three consecutive years of 3rd round picks.
The Lions started off this whole new initiative and got the ball rolling as Brad Holmes was the first hire that triggered this compensation scheme, netting the Rams x2 third-round picks when he became our new GM, rewarding LA for hiring Brad as an intern all those years ago. He shot up the ranks eventually meaning they could no longer keep hold of him, in fact, the Lions have made a large number of minority coaching hires for next season which is brilliant to see including OC, DC, DB and RB.
This new proposal can divide opinion. Some see it as bribery, giving out picks just for hiring someone because of the colour of their skin or what gender they are. Those who support it see it as rewarding those who are willing to diversify their organisation giving chances to African-American, Middle Eastern and female staff alike who deserve them but just that need someone to take a chance on them and open the door!
In summary, the Lions speak about culture and trying to build something with integrity. None of these hires was made with the intention of one day scoring a plethora of 3rd round picks but every individual should strive to succeed and burn with a desire to one day be a head coach in the NFL, and if in years to come we're rewarded with those picks that means the organisation has done its job properly in nurturing talent and those lucky few have moved on to bigger brighter things.
The NFL is the most spectacular show on turf the world can offer and no matter where you were born, where your parents were born or what you grew up to believe there is a place and job for you here.
The last thing I will say on the matter is the league has woken up and opened its eyes in what's been a difficult year, things need to change and hopefully, this is the start of things to come.
Thanks for reading 👍🏻