As another regular season of the Negroes For Labor league came to an end, two venerable Negro head coaches found themselves out of jobs. The season started with 7 and now there are five. However, attempts to do undo the other coaches were evident to even the untrained eye.
In Oakland, a bastion of Negro culture and refinement, Art Shell was removed from the leading role. Mr. Shell, a member of the football Hall of Fame and a Raider to the end, had taken on the unenviable task of being the plantation "trustee" for one Al Davis. Shell, an honorable and well respected man moved forward with workman like stoicism. Never raising his voice or showing emotion, rarely complaining about the hand he had been dealt, and almost never raising so much as a brow on the sidelines during games. Set up for failure in an effort by the powers that be in an effort to degrade the reputation of Negro coaches everywhere, Mr. Shell did his best with what he had. The end result: one year's work and a pink slip. Reports of Al Davis' demise and diminished thought capacity are greatly exaggerated. Davis clearly masterminded this sabotage attempt on the progression of Negro coaches.
Out in the desert of Arizona, the venerable coach Denny Green was hired to revive a once proud franchise (well, he was hired to revive a franchise). Equipped with a supposedly powerful offense, the expectations were high for Mr. Green. The media saddled Mr. Green with these expectations based on what they saw on paper. A talented rookie QB, a former pro bowl running back and two excellent receivers were to bring success to the Cardinals. Many predicted them as a dark horse (their term, not ours) candidate for a run to the Super Bowl. What the media didn't dwell on was the poor offensive line and habitual lunacy of the ownership. Here, unattainable expectations were levied against this team and the result was watching the blame settle squarely on the broad shoulders of the Negro coach. Another shot from the grassy knoll directed at Negro coaches everywhere.
In Cincinatti and Chicago, it would not be so easy to get rid of the Negro coaches. Both were successful and had made playoff runs the year before and while the Bengals didn't make the playoffs this year; it would be near impossible to fire the coach of that franchise (based on it's pathetic history) for a .500 season. Lovie Smith enjoyed the protection of having the best record in his conference. Assassinating the careers of these two coaches would be an almost insurmountable prospect.
At this point, the conspiracy widens. In Cincinatti, an epidemic of player arrests was implemented in an effort to affront the character of the coach and ignite a grassroots call for his dismissal by claiming he could not control his team. The owners of the franchise, despite a history of mismangement and horrible decision making, knew that even they would not be able to get away with firing Marvin Lewis based on his record. So, rather than that, they risked race riots all over again in Cincinatti by soliciting the help of the police force to dismantle the team Lewis put together. For now, Lewis job is safe, but he has been backed into a corner. It will no longer be sufficient for him to do anything less than suspend or dismiss his players for future "infractions". I fear, that the next round of Bengal arrests will ultimately cost Lewis his job as he will be forced to field a less talented team.
The Halas descendents in Chicago took a bit of a different route in their effort to depose Lovie Smith. Rather than conspiring with the police to conjure up a series of relatively minor offenses, the Bears went with drugs, weapons and murder. Sacrificing Tank Johnson in an effort to destroy the coaching career of Smith. This was the most desperate attempt, and seems to be the one least likely to succeed.
That leaves three black head coaches.
We won't count Romeo Crennel, as he is coaching a minor league team in Cleveland.
Tony Dungy is widely considered one of the most decent men in the NFL, and non-threatening Negroes. So, the idea of destroying his career might be counterproductive. A token or two are required and sought after (the Rooney Rule, which we will address in a future entry). But, his ultimate success and the winning of championships are something that the powers that be can not allow. A Negro coach winning it all would be devasting to their plans. So, Dungy is saddled with the ultimate gristmill around his neck. Peyton Manning. The second coming of Dan Marino will ensure that Dungy never hoists the Lombardi Trophy in victory.
In Kansas City, the suspicious death of Lamar Hunt might eventually be the undoing of Herman Edwards. Mr. Hunt brought Edwards to the Chiefs, and now, he is no longer their to protect him.
Negro coaches in the NFL are marked men and sacrificial lambs. Hired in an effort to present an image of equality and opportunity. Destroyed in an effort to maintain the status quo and solidify the position of the oppressor.