Before owners and general managers begin searching for a head coach, they often seek out the wise men of the coaching profession for recommendations. Bucs coach Tony Dungy, who in 1996 took over a team that had endured 13 consecutive losing seasons and turned it into a Super Bowl contender, would seem to be a perfect guy to contact. Dungy, however, said last week that he has never gotten a call from a club executive asking for a list of assistants who deserve to be considered for the top job. He said he called officials from two teams last year imploring them to speak with Tampa Bay assistant head coach Herman Edwards about their coaching vacancies. Neither did.
Edwards, like Dungy, is black. Since the Bucs hired Dungy, 38 of the 39 head-coaching hires have been white. The exception was Ray Rhodes, who after four years as coach of the Eagles was hired in Green Bay in early 1999. He lasted only one season.
"I thought [my hiring] would be a watershed event," says Dungy. "There was a long factfinding process by the Bucs, with a list of candidates. And the team has had some success. I thought that would change how coaches are hired. But the fact is that only one other minority coach has gotten a chance while practically the entire league has turned over coaching staffs, some teams twice. What seems to be happening is that people in control pick up the phone and call Bill Walsh, Jimmy Johnson, George Seifert and Bill Parcells and ask, 'Who's good?' "
Some black assistants think the hiring process is a sham. "Teams have found a way not to interview us," says Redskins passing game coordinator Terry Robiskie. To make his point, Robiskie cited five teams—the Dolphins, Jets, Bengals, Cardinals and Lions—who have filled openings by promoting white coaches from within their own ranks. Dave Wannstedt was hired by Miami after Johnson anointed him as his successor. Parcells did the same thing for Al Groh in New York. Dick LeBeau was promoted in Cincinnati when Bruce Coslet resigned on Sept. 25, and Dave McGinnis took over in Arizona when Vince Tobin was fired on Oct. 23; both are expected to get long-term contracts. The Lions chose assistant head coach Gary Moeller over two coordinators (one of them black) when Bobby Ross resigned on Nov. 6, and they handed Moeller a three-year contract.
"Let's say the Ravens have a lot of success this year," says Robiskie, "and their defense keeps playing lights out. There's [coordinator] Marvin Lewis, who has built that defense from the ground up. What jobs will there be for him even to interview for?"
Johnson Likes Titans, Rams
Tidbits from a 70-minute chat with former Cowboys and Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson:
On the NFL race: "I've watched more football this fall, college and pro, than I ever have. In the AFC it's easy. Someone's going to have to go to Tennessee and win, because with an easy schedule there's no way the Titans won't earn home field advantage. The NFC's muddied. I think St. Louis bringing Bud Carson back to run the defense will pay big dividends."
On his failure to take the Dolphins to the Super Bowl: "Now, remember. I said we would make a run at the Super Bowl. We made the playoffs the last three years, and I left the team in excellent shape for the future. People have dumped so much [Dan] Marino stuff on me that I won't rehash it. But I do wish we could have won a Super Bowl for Dan."
On his coaching future: "Never say never, but it's 99-9 percent sure I'll never coach again."