Stephen A. Smith Rants on Sean McVay Hiring: "you know there is no way in hell an African-American is going to get an opportunity like this"


Sean McVay was hired by the Los Angeles Rams at age 30 (which means he’s younger than lots of people in this world), making him the youngest head coaching hire in NFL history.

"“It rubs me the wrong way, because, I know Tomlin got the job when he was 34-years old, but by and large, you see these opportunities, you know there is no way in hell an African-American is going to get an opportunity like this, it’s just something that doesn’t really, really happen very often. And a lot of white guys ain’t getting an opportunity like this, so it just reeks of who you know, who you are comfortable with, how you were able to ingratiate yourself with them, as opposed to your legit qualifications. I gotta question about that, particularly when you are asking a head coach to be a leader of men, and some would argue whether a 30-year old is man enough at that particular junction, just based on birth certificate alone, and whether they are qualified to be leaders of men …”"

So much about this take is laughably bad. I am a proponent of the Rooney Rule. I recognize that historically teams were bad at minority hirings, and the rule was instituted for a reason. And that reason is why this opinion on young coaches and “earning it” and opportunities is so misguided.

The NFL is a fairly closed system in the coaching ranks. It’s often who you know. I mean, look at the recently fired coaches. Guys like Mike McCoy and Gus Bradley have no problem immediately moving on to coordinating jobs. When I looked at a three-year period from 2010-2012, Mike Singletary was the only coach who was fired and was not working on a NFL staff a year ago. Once you are in the coordinator/head coaching club, you are usually in, and it’s more like moving to different locales within the same industry.

And historically, one of the barriers for minority hiring was getting into that club, moving from position group to coordinator. A philosophy that one “earned” it by working for so long as a coordinator, then, inured in favor of the status quo. A philosophy that one should stick to older guys, re-tread hires and long-time coordinators who paid their dues, then, would tend to lead to less minority opportunities, not more.

Or consider this: since the Rooney Rule was established, there have been six coaches hired before their 36th birthday: McVay, Lane Kiffin, Raheem Morris, Josh McDaniels, Mike Tomlin, and Eric Mangini.

That’s two out of six minority hires, among the youngest opportunities given. You better believe that is a much higher rate than for coaching hires overall. Coaching hires are cyclical, offense versus defense, experience or not, and this year has mainly gone to guys who have never been a head coach before, and three of them (Anthony Lynn, Vance Joseph, and McVay) were a coordinator for three years or less. That philosophy, contrary to what Stephen A. Smith would have you believe, is a positive for more diversity in hiring.