Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made a rare off-season appearance on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” last week. The most successful black head coach in NFL history criticized the league’s hiring practices and the lack of diversity in the coaching ranks.
He followed up his comments in a closer look at the problem with Ron Cook from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Saturday. The shortage of minority coaches is “unacceptable,” he said, and the fact that Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is not in a position as head coach is a “head scratcher.”
Tomlin on the NFL’s failure with diversity
Tomlin described the lack of diversity attitudes as “a global, collective failure from my point of view” at Real Sports.
The Steelers hired Tomlin in January 2007 after one season as defensive coordinator. He replaced Bill Cowher, who was retiring, and became the 16th coach in franchise history. Tomlin has long been associated with the Rooney Rule that every team must interview a minority candidate for a head coaching opening (and now front office positions). That’s likely because it was named after the late Steelers team owner Dan Rooney.
“Maybe the Rooney Rule put my name on the original list, but it didn’t get me in the door,” Tomlin said of the Post-Gazette. “My presence wasn’t necessary to comply with the rule. Ron Rivera did that. These words came from Ambassador Rooney’s mouth. “
The story goes on
He was one of four Black NFL coaches at the time. Today he is one of three. According to the Post-Gazette, only three of the 27 head coach jobs have gone to black coaches in the past four years. The lack of diversity in the ranks is a “critical issue for us,” said Tomlin, seeing it as important not only for the league but also for society.
Eric Bieniemy of the Chiefs was not hired
Tomlin singled out the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, in his conversation with Cook.
“Bieniemy is a real head scratcher for me,” Tomlin said of the Post Gazette. “Every offensive coordinator Andy Reid has had in the last 20 years has got a full-time job. One of those people, Brad Childress, hired me in Minnesota in 2006. Now Andy has the best offense he’s ever had and [Bieniemy] Can’t you get a job “
Bieniemy has interviewed 13 teams 14 times in the past three seasons but has not been hired despite successive Super Bowl appearances. He has been used as an example of the system that works against black men because of his experience and his colleagues who got the job instead.
Tomlin noted that many black coaches don’t get second chances while many white coaches like Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay get those looks.
As for his own employees who don’t have a black coordinator, Tomlin said he believed in hiring for the most part and left good black coaches for jobs elsewhere. Two went back to work at the college ball.
Tomlin: ‘Hate wins 2021’
Tomlin has been widely criticized in Pittsburgh since his attitude to football-related, but also race-related issues. He said he “couldn’t fight the hatred” and wasn’t worried about what people say about it, especially since it “can grow and fester” in dark places on the Internet.
“Hate wins in 2021,” he said of the Post-Gazette. “What we saw as a society in 2020 is proof of that. That’s why I find it difficult to be optimistic. I have sons who are now young men. They face the same situations as they did when they were old. We have passed a generation with no improvement.
“If you are against hate, stand up and be heard because your silence helps.”
Tomlin, 48, is recovering from “minimal” symptoms after testing positive for COVID-19.
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