A Black coach was fired at the beginning of 2021. But instead of the team with the Offensive Rookie of the Year hiring the hottest offensive coordinator in the league, who was Black, they chose a white coach. After two and a half seasons, that white coach was fired because he was worse than the Black coach who preceded him. This is the story of the Los Angeles Chargers. This is also the plight of Black coaches in the NFL.
With the recent firing of Brandon Staley in Los Angeles, it means the Chargers cleaned house weeks before Black Monday. It also means we’re getting close to that point of the season in which the lack of diversity amongst head coaches in the league becomes a huge talking point, again, as the annual tradition of overlooking overqualified Black candidates for underwhelming white ones that owners and media members “believe in,” will soon commence.
There’s also a reason so many people on social media, TV and at the water cooler (in-person and remotely), will be upset that race is being discussed, as they feel that anyone who brings up the topic is a “race-baiter.”
That crowd will say that the best person for the job should be hired, regardless of color. However, that crowd refuses to understand that it doesn’t work like that. Because if it did, they’d see the issue with a predominately Black league only having two permanent head coaches who identify as Black — which is one more than it had in 1921.
The comedy in all of this is that Staley was fired during the NFL’s “Inspire Change” weeks, the part of the calendar when the league acts like it cares about social and racial issues while ignoring that they’re one of the biggest contributors to it.
To understand just how much the game is rigged, just read the words of the men who take part in it.
“As we all know, this is a results-driven business and, simply put, the results of the past two years have fallen short of expectations,” is what Chargers owner Dean Spanos said in 2021 after firing Anthony Lynn — the franchise’s first, and only, Black head coach. “Moving forward, we will redouble our efforts to both build and maintain a championship-caliber program. We have been innovative in many facets of our organization in recent years, and we need to carry that over to our entire operation. Our fans need to know that the Los Angeles Chargers are committed to consistent, winning football. The search for a new head coach will begin immediately.”
Lynn was 33-31 in the regular-season record and 1-1 in the playoffs. Los Angeles went 7-9 in his last season and lost seven games by one score. He won the last four games of the season.
“We are clearly not where we expect to be, however, and we need new vision,” said Spanos when he fired Staley last Friday.
It was a 180 from what was said when Staley was hired.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve known Brandon for five minutes or five years. What quickly becomes apparent is the amount of energy and passion he approaches each and every moment with,” wrote Chargers’ president of football operations John Spanos, Dean’s son, in a statement at the time. “The consistency of that enthusiasm is unique and, most importantly, it drives his ability to connect with people.”
Under Staley, Los Angeles was the definition of average (24-24.) Their sole postseason appearance during his tenure came last season when the Chargers blew a 27-point lead to Jacksonville — the third-largest comeback in playoff history
When the Chargers were looking to replace Lynn they brought in six candidates — five of them were white. Brian Daboll, Jason Garrett, Joe Brady, Matt Eberflus, and Staley were part of that group. Eric Bieniemy was the lone minority candidate, serving as an example of how teams skirt the Rooney Rule.
Now, we wait to see who the Spanos family will select as their next head coach. But, before we look to the future, we must pay attention to the past.
The final straw that led to Staley getting fired was when the Chargers lost, 63-21, to the Raiders on Thursday Night Football, just four days after Las Vegas didn’t score a single point in their 3-0 home loss to the Vikings. The interim coach of the Raiders is Antonio Pierce, who is Black. Pierce is in charge after the Raiders fired their white head coach midway through the season, just like the Chargers did.