In February of 2022, the Houston Texans named Lovie Smith as their new head coach. Smith expressed that the NFL has a concern with diversity and hiring Black coaches.
“I am aware of the number of Black head coaches currently in the National Football League,” Smith informed reporters nearly one year ago.
“Both Mike Tomlin and I seem to be the only ones aware of this issue. It’s clear that there is a problem, so what steps will be taken to address it?”
On Monday, Smith was let go after completing his first and only season as the head coach of the Texans. He ended with a record of 3-13-1.
Texans have fired their second Black coach, Smith, in consecutive years. David Culley was also let go at the end of the 2021 season.
Although Smith’s tenure was not marked by many successes, he did leave the organization with a final, unexpected win against the Indianapolis Colts. This victory allowed the Chicago Bears to secure the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL draft, relinquishing it from the Colts. Despite the lack of wins, Smith’s Texans displayed qualities of unity and competence, which are valuable for a team going through a rebuilding phase.
The decision to fire Smith, made by Houston general manager Nick Caserio, is in the best interest of the team at this time.
Caserio expressed gratitude on behalf of the entire organization to Lovie Smith for his valuable contributions as a coach and leader during the past two seasons.
“I am continuously assessing our football operations and have determined that this is the optimal choice for us at this moment. It is my duty to create a thorough and competitive program that can maintain success over an extended period. While we may not be there currently, I have faith in the direction of our football program’s progress with the backing of the McNair family and the resources at our disposal.”
However, the decision to dismiss the 64-year-old coach, as well as the actions taken by the Texans organization and the league to support diversity, have faced strong backlash from former players and television analysts.
“The Houston Texans have terminated Lovie Smith’s contract after only one year. It is concerning that they have utilized two Black Head Coaches in a strategic attempt to perform poorly and then dismiss them after only one year,” former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III expressed on Sunday in response to the news of Smith’s firing.
Stephen A. Smith and retired NFL player Michael Irvin also expressed disapproval of the decision on ESPN. Smith described the Texans organization as a “disgrace.”
“He expressed his disappointment and stated that if you are an African American seeking a head coaching position in the National Football League, there are 31 teams that you should aim for. He also added that you should pray that the Houston Texans never reach out to you.”
Irvin stated that the Texans are unfairly using Black coaches as “scapegoats.”
“The situation in Houston is chaotic, and these individuals are being unfairly blamed for it. This is precisely what African American coaches have been protesting about for some time now, and it is happening openly and blatantly.”
When CNN reached out to the Texans for a response, the team emphasized a specific moment during the news conference on Monday. Caserio was asked why a Black coach would want to work for the team, and he replied that each candidate would have to decide for themselves.
The general manager stated that the most important factor is not race, but rather finding coaches who demonstrate high quality. He acknowledged that there are plenty of coaches who meet this standard, such as David Culley and Lovie Smith.
Ultimately, every coach has their own convictions, philosophy, and comfort level when it comes to our methods. My only aim is to be truthful and direct, as I have been since taking on this role, and to find a coach who aligns with the best interests of our organization. That is the most straightforward response I can give, and it is my promise.
“That is my job and my responsibility in this role. If at any point, someone disagrees with the decision for this organization, I will respect and accept their opinion.”
CNN has contacted Lovie Smith for a statement.
Improving the representation of diverse individuals in coaching positions.
According to NFL.com, at the start of the 2022 season, it was reported that Smith was among only six minority head coaches in the NFL. This is a relatively small number in a league where almost 70% of the players are African American.
After being hired by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1989, Art Shell became the first Black head coach in modern history. Since then, there have been 191 head coaching hires, but only 24 of them have been Black.
The NFL has implemented measures to promote inclusivity in their coaching staff.
In 2003, the NFL implemented the Rooney Rule to enhance hiring methods with the goal of diversifying the number of minorities hired in positions such as head coach, general manager, and executive roles.
However, the Rooney Rule has not been a complete success.
The Detroit Lions were penalized $200,000 in 2003 for failing to interview any minority coaches prior to hiring Steve Mariucci as their new head coach.
The NFL faced criticism and responded by creating a diversity advisory committee made up of external specialists to evaluate its hiring procedures in March. Additionally, teams must now hire minority coaches as offensive assistants.
A 2022 lawsuit claims that despite recent changes to strengthen the rule, some teams are conducting “sham” interviews in order to meet the league’s diversity requirements.
In February of last year, ex-Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores brought a legal case against the NFL, the New York Giants, the Denver Broncos, and the Miami Dolphins, accusing them of racial bias.
According to his lawsuit, Flores, who identifies as Black, claims that the Giants deceitfully conducted an interview with him for their open head coaching position.
After two months of filing the initial lawsuit, Flores included the Texans in it, claiming that they did not offer him the position of head coach this offseason because of his decision to sue and speak out about the NFL’s systemic discrimination.
The Texans stated that their search for a head coach was extensive and inclusive in response to the lawsuit.
The National Football League dismissed Flores’ accusations as baseless.
The NFL and its teams have a strong dedication to promoting fair employment practices and are actively working towards creating equal opportunities within our organizations. This statement was made by the league in response to the lawsuit.
“Diversity is at the heart of our organization and is a top priority for both our clubs and internal leadership team. We are committed to addressing any false accusations made against us.”
The Texans have once again terminated their Black head coach, just 12 months after firing their previous one.
NFL Hall of Famer Irvin questioned the process of hiring two African Americans, then leaving them for a year and subsequently getting rid of them.
Irvin expressed frustration with the state of Houston, stating that they often receive the most difficult tasks and are not given the chance to improve upon them.
“I don’t know any great White coach that would take the (Texans) job unless you give them some guarantees. ‘You’re going to have to guarantee me four years to turn this place around.’ But the African American coaches can’t come in with that power because Lovie wouldn’t have got another job.
“This was his final opportunity to return to the NFL and you must accept the offer on the table in order to attempt to alter this outcome.”
The Texans are currently seeking a new head coach with the guidance of general manager Caserio. This will mark Caserio’s third time selecting a coach for the team, which is a rare occurrence for a general manager.
Cal McNair, chairman and CEO of the Texans, stated that he will increase his involvement in the hiring process. The upcoming head coach will be the fourth to lead the organization in just three years.
The NFL reports that the Texans have asked to interview five potential candidates for Smith’s role, including two coaches of African American descent.
Following Smith’s hiring in March 2021, McNair stated, “I have never witnessed a more comprehensive, inclusive, and detailed process than the one Nick Caserio just completed for our coaching search.”
During the initial press briefing, Smith openly discussed strategies for increasing diversity in the coaching positions within the NFL.
“Those in positions of power, such as head coaches and general managers, must make a conscious effort to increase the representation of Black athletes in quality control roles within their program. By providing these opportunities, individuals can then have the potential to advance and help increase diversity.”
Smith elaborated that it’s not just a matter of conducting an interview with a Black individual. It’s important to have a diverse pool of candidates who share similar characteristics as himself. He also emphasized the importance of actions rather than just talk, citing his own staff as an example of his belief in diversity. By giving these individuals a chance to showcase their abilities, the goal of increasing diversity can be achieved. Ultimately, it is up to individuals to make their own choices and this is how Smith believes progress can be made.