It would be hard to blame any minority coaching candidate for feeling frustrated after seeing the New York Giants hire former New England Patriots wide-receivers coach Joe Judge, a 38-year-old who spent all eight years of his NFL career with New England. Judge’s ascension is unusual because he made the leap from position coach to head coach without being an offensive or defensive coordinator first. Supposedly, Judge’s close relationship with coach Bill Belichick and the impressive presentation he gave to Giants general manager Dave Gettleman and owner John Mara were significant factors in New York’s decision to gamble on someone with his credentials. But this also was an example of how quickly the supposed qualifications shift.
To say that a nonwhite coach with Judge’s limited résumé would never have been hired for that position isn’t conjecture. It’s a fact. Compare Judge’s credentials with those of Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, who also was an assistant coach with the Patriots for his entire NFL coaching career before landing the job in Miami in 2018.
Read: The white flight from football
Flores is the son of Honduran immigrants of African and indigenous descent. Like Judge, Flores also was hired when he was 38 years old. But Flores spent 14 years with the Patriots, and held eight different positions, which included calling the plays for the Patriots defense in his final season with the team. Perhaps Flores’s crowning moment was when the Patriots played the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LII. The Rams had one of the most dynamic offenses in professional football, but Flores’s defensive scheme held the Rams to three points as New England collected its sixth Super Bowl championship. Judge was never given play-calling duties in New England.
It may not be a coincidence that general manager Chris Grier, who is black, was responsible for bringing Flores to Miami. Grier is the NFL’s only African American general manager—another position that is nearly always out of reach.
My point is not to cast aspersions on Judge’s experience, but to show that Flores is just another example of how black coaches generally need to have far better credentials than their white counterparts if they want to receive the same consideration.
Unfortunately, NFL owners treat white men as their default example of leadership.
Former Baylor coach Matt Rhule received a seven-year, $60 million contract from the Carolina Panthers that could end up being worth up to $70 million if certain incentives are reached. That is an absurdly high contract for someone whose NFL experience is limited to spending one season as an assistant offensive-line coach for the Giants in 2012.
Since then, Rhule has been a college coach. Certainly he attracted a lot of attention for impressively turning around Baylor after a sexual-assault scandal leveled the Bears’ football program. Baylor went 1–11 during Rhule’s first year, and this season the Bears finished 11–3. Rhule had performed a similar miracle at Temple, going from 2–10 in 2013 to a school-record 10 wins just two years later. This year, he was a hot NFL commodity. The Panthers pursued Rhule hard, and signed him to such a healthy deal to fend off the Giants.