Insight News

Dec 19th

Black head coach tree grows

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tony_dungyThere are now seven Black head coaches in the NFL. Interestingly, four of the seven come from the Tony Dungy coaching tree (Mike Tomlin—Pittsburgh Steelers, Lovie Smith—Chicago Bears, Jim Caldwell—Indianapolis Colts, Leslie Frazier—Vikings). The bottom line for NFL coaches is judged by playoff victories and Superbowl wins. Taking a look at the current NFL playoff roster of coaches, the “bottom line” should suggest that there should be many more African-American head coaches, to lead this 65% African-American player based league.

In a move that showed the intelligent solidarity of these highly accomplished men, the Vikings new coaching leader, Leslie Frazier, quickly welcomed his former teammate Mike Singletary to an assistant coaching position, Frazier played a supporting role alongside Singletary’s defensive leadership of the 1985 Superbowl Champion Chicago Bears. If any team ever resembled family, it was the ’85 Bears. With Singletary as the heart of the defensive unit, and great running-back Walter Payton as the heart of the offensive unit, there couldn’t possibly be a more genuine, heartfelt set of leaders on any team, anywhere, throughout team sports history (in my opinion). Many question why that ’85 team did not win more championships, and my suggestion would be that their team/football family was simply too special, and had already set an example, to be marveled over for posterity.

Sports produce leaders. The simple order of strenuous physical activities, in addition to the heavy camaraderie of being together with a group of like-minded individuals, makes for people who can operate comfortably in society, regardless of the backgrounds of those whom they must interact with. Through sports individuals are able to sift through their differences towards a common goal—winning—and are able to work through the process of understanding differences through sharing wins, losses, joy, pain, and even tragedy. All of this creates a family of sorts. Often times these team-based families take up more of the player’s time than their actual immediate family does.

Family looks out for each other. Attention has to be paid to each family members individual gifts to make sure that those gifts are best looked out for, but family should clearly look out for each other. Leslie Frazier knows good and well the gifts of Mike Singletary, and that he should not be without a job related to football, as long as that is what Singletary seeks. Singletary was only “semi-family” in his previous job as head coach of the San Francisco 49-ers. He earned that position honestly through his impressive work. Through Singletary’s varied responses in press conferences during that tenure, you never got the feeling that anyone “had his back”, though it’s hard for anyone not to admire his strength of leadership. Family provides a place for each other to rest, work, learn, and prepare, during those times when the climb to ultimate success temporarily levels out (and of course “rest” doesn’t mean “rest on your laurels”).

The current list of African American head coaches in the NFL represents a group of terribly impressive men. The demeanor carried by each of them is slightly different, but one certainly does not see these men as limited to success in the football arena. There is truly no shame in looking out for family when family is as impressive, just as human beings, as these African-American head coaches have demonstrated in recent history.

When Leslie Frazier recently stood before the podium to accept the position as head coach of the Vikings, he passionately mentioned “family”. Frazier was thoroughly appreciative for Viking ownership’s similar approach to team-building success through “family treatment”. Surely Frazier conveyed to the Wilf family that Mike Singletary is family, and that the Viking family will be better off for providing a position for Singletary to rest, work, learn, and prepare for greater success in the future, whether here or elsewhere. We all should recognize that this family nurturing has benefits for both sides, because the Vikings will be able to draw from the fruits of Singletary’s re-preparation for a future head coaching position; hopefully that Superbowl kind of fruit.

And yes family comes with baggage (and yes I have to close with an attempt at funny). Sometimes you have to look past the fact that the family you’re welcoming in was caught trying to motivate a group of men by pulling his pants down to drive home a passionate message. The Minnesota and Viking’s families welcome Mr. Singletary wholeheartedly, and offer directions to the lovely Macy’s downtown where he can find a vast array of belts of all kinds. Family looks out for each other that way.

You can see the impressiveness of these African American head coaches. They are men that we wouldn’t mind our children emulating. They are role models. Players play, and coaches teach. We all know that the mind of a true teacher is one of the greatest gifts known to man.

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