By Juan C. Lozano | Aug. 20, 2018
The Rooney Rule was instituted by the NFL in 2003 in an effort to increase opportunities for minority coaches to become head coaches.
Before the NFL implemented the Rooney Rule, there had only been six minority head coaches in the modern era (Tom Flores, Art Shell, Dennis Green, Ray Rhodes, Tony Dungy, Herman Edwards).
Fifteen years later there are eight active minority head coaches:
• Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals
• Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
• Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
• Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns
• Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos
• Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers
• Todd Bowles, New York Jets
• Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
After the 2017 season, there was seven NFL head coach vacancies. One of those openings went to a minority candidate (Wilks).
There will likely be head coaching vacancies again after this season. In order to comply with the Rooney Rule, teams must interview minority coaches. Teams generally look to the offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator ranks to fill head coach vacancies.
Coordinator experience isn’t what we think makes a suitable head coach. But it’s what NFL decision-makers seek in a head coach.
Below is a list of minority coaches that we have identified as candidates for head coaching jobs in 2019.
It is important to note that of the names on this list, the majority of them are defensive coaches. Of the eight minority head coaches currently in the NFL, six have defensive backgrounds. Only Anthony Lynn and Hue Jackson come from offensive backgrounds.
There is currently one minority offensive coordinator (Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs) and he doesn’t call plays or work with quarterbacks. Bieniemy coincidentally works for the only current head coach (Andy Reid) that was never a coordinator prior to becoming a head coach.
TERYL AUSTIN – Cincinnati Bengals, Defensive Coordinator
The 53-year-old Austin is in his first-year as defensive coordinator for the Bengals and was the defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions from 2014-2017. He was considered a hot candidate for a head coach position after the 2016 season.
Austin has worked for coaches such as John Harbaugh, Urban Meyer and Jim Caldwell. This year, the Bengals defense will likely have to excel and have a winning record in order for Austin to have a legitimate opportunity at a head coach position.
(In an interesting note, Austin took over as defensive coordinator at the University of Florida in 2010 for another name on this list, George Edwards.)
GEORGE EDWARDS — Minnesota Vikings, Defensive Coordinator
George Edwards doesn’t call the defense in Minnesota. He has the title, but it’s head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense and Zimmer runs it. The 51- year-old Edwards was the defensive coordinator, complete with play-calling responsibilities, in earlier stints with the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills.
Edwards’ candidacy for a head coach opportunity is aided by the success of the Vikings defense, one of the best in the NFL. Edwards was selected to coach the 2017 East- West Shrine Game, indicating that league brass sees him as someone that may become a head coach in the future.
BRIAN FLORES — New England Patriots, Linebackers Coach
Flores, 37, is the de facto unnamed defensive coordinator for the Patriots. Although he doesn’t have the title of defensive coordinator, as the Bill Belichick is reluctant to name one for various reasons, it’s understood that Flores calls the defense.
Flores played at Boston College and has been with the Patriots organization since 2003. In 15 years, he’s moved up from a scouting assistant to his current role. After the 2017 regular season, Flores interviewed with the Cardinals for their head coach position. He will likely have interview opportunities after the 2018 season.
RAHEEM MORRIS — Atlanta Falcons, Associate Head Coach/Wide Receivers Coach
Morris is the only coach on this list that has prior head coach experience — he was head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2009-2011. The Buccaneers went 17-31 in Morris’ three seasons as head coach. At the time, Morris was the youngest head coach in NFL history. He was the Bucs’ defensive backs coach in 2007 and 2008 before taking over for the fired Jon Gruden.
Morris is now on the offensive side of the ball for a third year as wide receivers coach. The Falcons are one of the preseason favorites for the NFC crown. The team’s consistent winning efforts are a boost to Morris’ career and his future head coach ambitions.
KRIS RICHARD — Dallas Cowboys, Defensive Passing Game Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach
The 38-year-old Richard is the second youngest head coach prospect in our group. We wrote about Richard in an earlier coaching profile.
This is Richard’s first coaching stop away from Pete Carroll and Carroll is known to advocate for assistant coaches, so this works in Richard’s favor.
Richard interviewed for the Indianapolis Colts head coaching positon after the 2017 season. A strong effort by the Cowboys’ defense and specifically the development of the defensive backs will likely result in Richard getting additional head coaching interviews.
ROBERT SALEH — San Francisco 49ers, Defensive Coordinator
The 39-year-old Saleh is in his second year as defensive coordinator of the 49ers. Saleh has an interesting story on how he went from being a student-athlete at Northern Michigan University to NFL coach.
Saleh has worked for Pete Carroll, Gus Bradley and Kyle Shanahan. He was heavily influenced by Carroll, which should help his efforts to get a head coach positions.
An upgraded 49ers roster should help his candidacy as well.
ERIC WASHINGTON — Carolina Panthers, Defensive Coordinator
Washington is a first-time NFL defensive coordinator. He’s replacing Steve Wilks, who was also a first-time defensive coordinator a year ago before becoming the Cardinals head coach. Washington had been the Carolina defensive line coach since 2010.
Washington, 48, has worked with and for Lovie Smith, Sean McDermott, Steve Wilks and Ron Rivera and played for the legendary Eddie Robinson at Grambling State.
Washington, who served in the military and was commissioned as an officer after college, has been on successful teams in Chicago and Carolina. His winning pedigree and leadership skills should make him a head coach candidate in the future.