Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns are changing the game on minority hiring
He’s worked to hire the best candidates on his staff, and three of them happen to be minorities.
The pipeline is all but dry.
Look, as Hue Jackson has, at the numbers. This season, there are only four African-American offensive coordinators and only one, the Tennessee Titans’ Terry Robiskie, will call plays. There is only one African-American quarterbacks coach.
After the 2015 season, there were seven head-coaching vacancies. All seven were filled by men who had experience on the offensive side of the ball. Mike Mularky, Chip Kelly and Jackson had prior head-coaching experience, while Doug Pederson, Ben McAdoo, Adam Gase and Dirk Koetter had been offensive coordinators in 2015.
“My question to you is how on offense is there going to be another potential head-coaching candidate?” Jackson said. “There isn’t. So we have to do something to help bridge this gap, and it’s incumbent upon us all, because Coach [Marvin] Lewis did it. He put his money where his mouth was with me.”
Lewis gave Jackson a shot in 2014, turning over his Cincinnati Bengals offense to Jackson three years after hiring the former Oakland Raiders head coach to be his assistant defensive backs coach.
After the Browns hired Jackson in January to be its eighth head coach since Cleveland returned to the National Football League in 1999, Jackson assembled a coaching staff with minorities in the most important positions. Jackson hired former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton to be his associate head coach for offense and quarterbacks coach, making Hamilton the only African-American quarterbacks coach in the league this season. Jackson hired former Tennessee defensive coordinator Ray Horton to be his defensive coordinator and former Minnesota Vikings running backs coach Kirby Wilson to be his run-game coordinator and running backs coach.
“There was a time when I was sitting there putting stuff together and going, ‘I hope people don’t see this the wrong way,'” Jackson said. He knew how it might look, he just didn’t care.
“The beautiful part of it is the people within our organization didn’t blink,” Jackson said. “It was never questioned, ‘Hue, you’re acquiring too many minorities,’ or, ‘what are you doing, the people who are in the majority of the lead positions are men of color.’
“I do think it’s one of my responsibilities to give back, but as I told many minority coaches, ‘I’m going to give back if you’re good at what you do. I just can’t hand you a job. You have to be one of the best at what you do.’ This is the National Football League, and those three guys, to me, are the best at what they do.”
But being the best doesn’t always matter.