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Goodwin: Wilks' firing amid no black hires 'hurt'

Jan 12, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. -- New Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant head coach and run-game coordinator Harold Goodwin didn't mince words Friday when asked about his disappointment over the firing of head coach Steve Wilks in Arizona after one season, and over the lack of minority hires around the NFL overall.

"That hurt a little bit," said Goodwin, who is African-American. "He's a friend of mine. We worked together back in the day with the Bears. It's hard to build something from the ground up with one year. It's like, 'Hey, I want you to start this Fortune 500 company, but you've got one year.' That's impossible. And that's what he was tasked with.

"But God will look after him. He'll be OK in the long run, and hopefully he'll get another opportunity."

This season has been particularly difficult for minority coaches. Five of the eight head coaches fired either during or after the 2018 season -- Wilks, Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns, Todd Bowles of the New York Jets, Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals and Vance Joseph of the Denver Broncos -- are black.

Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers are the only current black head coaches in the NFL.

The Dolphins concluded their interview process for a new head coach Friday -- and the candidate they intend and hope to hire is Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, ESPN's Jeff Darlington reports.

The Cardinals have hired former Broncos coach Vance Joseph as their defensive coordinator.

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Meanwhile, of the eight recent head-coaching vacancies, not a single minority has been among the six hires made, though sources told ESPN's Jeff Darlington on Friday evening that the Miami Dolphins are "hoping" to hire New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, who is black and the son of Honduran immigrants.

Goodwin, who served as offensive coordinator under new Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians while with the Cardinals from 2013 to 2017, has interviewed for several head-coaching positions over the years, including with the Bucs in 2016, but he encountered several roadblocks.

"Every time I went in to interview, 'You don't call plays.' Well, I did call plays in the preseason," Goodwin said. Arians was the playcaller in the regular season. "Are we looking for playcallers or are we looking for leaders? Leaders of men, who can help build an organization from the ground up on the football side.

"The next excuse was, 'Well, we don't like your staff.' A lot of my staff is still coaching. Some guys are coordinators in the NFL now that have had a lot of success that were on my list."

Goodwin then alluded to teams not taking the Rooney Rule seriously. Under the rule, which was adopted in 2003, every NFL team is required to interview at least one minority candidate for head-coaching and general manager positions.

The rule has been scrutinized in recent years, though, as some believe teams have made a mockery of it by bringing in candidates who aren't deemed to have a legitimate chance at earning the job.

"I will give credit to two owners -- [Buffalo Bills' Terry] Pegula and [Jacksonville Jaguars'] Shad Khan. They were actually in the interview," Goodwin said. "I can't say that about the others. So, those were real interviews. I appreciated that opportunity."

John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a diversity group responsible for ensuring minorities receive coaching, scouting and front office opportunities in the NFL, corroborated Goodwin's account.

"I know this is true because I followed up," Wooten said. "Because whenever our guys interview, I call the clubs, based on who they told me was in the room to talk to them and [get a] critique." After Goodwin's interviews last year the NFL and Pollard Alliance worked together to strengthen the Rooney Rule, where teams could only satisfy the requirement of interviewing at least one candidate of color for both head coaching and general manager positions if an NFL owner, or the primary decision maker in an organization, was present for the interview.

Also, under the strengthened rules, candidates must also be part of an approved list of minority assistant coaches supplied by the Pollard Alliance or the NFL's list created by a career development advisory panel for consideration. Teams are welcome to interview candidates not on either list, but the Rooney Rule will only be met if a realistic candidate is on one of those lists.

This was done in response to an NFL investigation of the Oakland Raiders last year after they hired Jon Gruden but claimed they satisfied the requirement by interviewing Tee Martin, previously the offensive coordinator at the University of Southern California and then-Raiders tight ends coach Bobby Johnson, now with the Indianapolis Colts. Neither coach was considered a serious candidate, although the NFL concluded that there was no wrongdoing.

"We have seen the league change for the better, but there is still work to be done," said Wooten, who has followed up on every interview this year and said all teams have been compliant with the new rules. As far as what happened to Wilks, Wooten said it's "not new" to fire coaches after one year.

"We're Steve Wilks guys, okay? We love him," Wooten said. "But on the same token, Lou Holtz was fired [from the New York Jets in 1976]... Teams have the right to do what they want to do, whether we agree with it or not. ... Guys have been fired before that have only been in the league for one year as a coach. We didn't holler then so we're not going to holler now."

Goodwin said one roadblock he has faced has to do with being an offensive line coach; he said teams want a coach who can develop quarterbacks and has called plays.

It is something that Bowles, the Bucs' new defensive coordinator, also said is an issue.

"You can say there's a trend," Bowles said. "Everybody wants the up-and-coming signal-caller. I think it's more of an offensive mentality right now as far as the league, as far as the rules are going, what's going against the defense as far as the plays that can be run, so everybody's rushing to get the next offensive genius, so to speak.

"I don't know if it's a slap in the face, one way or the other. That's just the way the league goes. It'll switch back, and we'll see who's standing when those things switch back."

Even being an offensive play-caller doesn't always ensure opportunities. Wooten pointed to former Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, who tutored Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford. He interviewed with the New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers, but did not get a job this hiring season.

Bowles noted that NFL jobs are hard to come by no matter a candidate's race.

"There are only 32 head jobs in the league," Bowles said. "There [are] a lot of people who feel like they're being discriminated against, and there [are] a lot of people that don't get the chance, regardless of race. You just have to coach your hardest and do your best. If the opportunity comes up and you have a chance to grab it, you grab it. If not, you be the best coach you can be."

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