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As the NFL season concluded with the proclamation that the New England Patriots are now officially a dynasty, another NFL dynasty seems to be crumbling.
As a longtime fan of Robert Kraft and the Patriots, I am delighted to see their on-the-field dynasty reach this point.
And as someone who has followed the NFL's hiring practices for more than two decades, I am also pleased to see the "good old boys network" among head football coaches -- a dynasty of sorts itself -- continues to fall apart now that Romeo Crennel has been hired as the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Crennel becomes the sixth African-American NFL head coach, an all-time high for a league that has struggled with this position throughout its history.
My first impression of Paul Tagliabue and his view on the issue of race came shortly after he was installed as commissioner. One of his first decisions was to remove the Super Bowl from Arizona because the state didn't officially recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday. That told me a great deal about Tagliabue's stance on the issue of race.
In terms of African-Americans in head coaching positions, the NFL is a stark contrast to Division I-A college football, which is going in the opposite direction. I have no doubt that the efforts of the commissioner's office, as well as the diversity groups appointed by the NFL in the last three years, have brought about a direct change. The "Rooney Rule," which is named after Steelers owner Dan Rooney (who heads the league's diversity committee) and requires that people of color be interviewed as part of the search process for head coaches, has helped to double the number of African-American head coaches in the NFL from three to six.
The college game, which does not have such a policy, saw its season end with the firings of Tyrone Willingham and Tony Samuel at Notre Dame and New Mexico State, respectively, and the resignation of Fitz Hill at San Jose State. Willingham was subsequently hired at the University of Washington, which leaves Division I-A football with three head coaches (out of 117 schools) who are African-American.
So the NFL has doubled its previous all-time high prior to the policy change, while the college level's Division I-A is at less than half of its previous all-time high number of African-American head coaches (eight, in 1998). Crennel joins Tony Dungy (Colts), Herman Edwards (Jets), Lovie Smith (Bears), Dennis Green (Cardinals) and Marvin Lewis (Bengals).
The NFL's policy is similar to an approach adopted earlier by Major League Baseball under Bud Selig, which helped result in the tripling of the number of managers of color.
In previous seasons, another NFL policy discouraged teams in the market for a coach from tampering with the staffs of teams in the playoffs or in the Super Bowl, and that at times has restricted the opportunities for movement for some coordinators and top assistant coaches who might have been considered for head coaching jobs. That Cleveland was willing to wait to hire Romeo Crennel until the conclusion of the Super Bowl represents a change in the NFL's attitude in that area.