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Monday, January 13, 2003
Outside the Lines:
Minority Report



Here's the transcript from Show 146 of weekly Outside The Lines - Minority Report

SUN., JAN. 12, 2003
Host: Bob Ley, ESPN
Reporter: Mark Schwarz, ESPN
Guests: Paul Tagliabue, NFL Commissioner; Bill Polian, President, Indianapolis Colts; Kellen Winslow, member Pro Football Hall of Fame; Rich Lowry, editor, National Review

ANNOUNCER- January 12, 2003.

BOB LEY, HOST- Once, black quarterbacks were a novelty. This weekend, African-Americans are under center and at the center of NFL playoff intrigue. But the league has only two black head coaches, a fact begging many questions of history and the future. And with two vacancies now, there's increased scrutiny on, and new guidelines for, hiring minority head coaches in the NFL.

PAUL TAGLIABUE, NFL COMMISSIONER- We've had a big increase in assistants and coordinators in the last five or six years, and I think the pipeline for head coaches is there.

TED COTTRELL, NEW YORK JETS' DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR- We keep working this, my goodness, it's got to happen sooner or later. So you keep your fingers crossed.

LEY- There is a deep undercurrent of frustration.

TAGLIABUE- I'm sure there's some frustration, but anger and frustration is not unique to minorities in the work place.

COTTRELL- It's a slap. It's not in the face, but it's somewhere else. I'm sitting right here. I'm not good enough?

LEY- Today on Outside the Lines, a minority report, the frustrations of a coach who, this afternoon, leads his defense to the playoffs and a one-on-one conversation with commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

Football may be the most emotional of sports, but even those passions pale next to those unleashed by the issues of racial discrimination and affirmative action. Now, with emotions come numbers and questions. How, in a league where two-thirds of the players are African-American, only two head coaches are black and only five total have held that position in the modern era of the league? How, following the threat of a civil rights lawsuit, the NFL last month began requiring minority candidates to be interviewed for head coaching vacancies.

This morning, I'll speak with a Hall of Famer who believes the league needs to do much more, a club president who helped shape this new policy, and an opponent of affirmative action who calls the process quote "racial quota mongering." We begin with Mark Schwarz, visiting a man who will spend this Sunday on the sidelines in Oakland hoping his hard work will bring him the job he has spent his life chasing.

MARK SCHWARZ, ESPN CORRESPONDENT -- For 19 NFL seasons, Ted Cottrell has prepared for games like this one, with the Raiders less than 72 hours away, Cottrell pushes deep into Thursday night.

COTTRELL- A lot of long hours, you know, a lot of time, but you want to make sure all your T's are crossed and all the I's are dotted. Cover everything.

SCHWARZ- As the Jets' defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, Cottrell is near the top of his profession, but he hungers for more.

SCHWARZ - How much would it mean to you, at this point, to get an NFL head coaching job?

COTTRELL- Oh, I mean, one of those lifelong dreams. So you keep working, keep working, my goodness, it's got to happen sooner or later. So you keep your fingers crossed, keep wishing and hoping.

SCHWARZ - Though he's never been a head coach at any level, Cottrell has been interviewed for six NFL head coaching jobs, three last season and three the season before that. But with three head coaching jobs available at this season's end, he has drawn absolutely no interest, making Cottrell wonder if his stock has fallen.

SCHWARZ- Are you surprised that the phone hasn't rung, or are you mad that the phone hasn't rung?

COTTRELL- Well, I'm surprised and I'm mad. I'm both.

SCHWARZ - Cottrell built a reputation in Buffalo over 10 seasons, the final three as defensive coordinator. Though his unit finished number one in the league in 1999, he says he was not pursued by any other clubs seeking a head coach.

SCHWARZ -- Is that a slap in the face when that kind of thing happens?

COTTRELL- Yes, it's a -- I'll tell you one thing. It's a slap. It's not in the face, but it's somewhere else. I don't like it. You know, I just -- hey, that wasn't a fair shake there. That wasn't, especially when you're sitting right there -- I'm sitting right here. I'm not good enough?

SCHWARZ -- Two years ago when the Bills dismissed head coach Wade Phillips, Cottrell was interviewed as a possible replacement. During the process, he says he realized he was never a legitimate candidate for the job.

COTTRELL- Just wasn't going to happen there. I kind of knew that.

SCHWARZ -- Do you think race had something to do with that?

COTTRELL- I think it has some -- something to do with it there.

SCHWARZ- What made you feel that?

COTTRELL- Just the climate of what was happening.

SCHWARZ- Last year, you were up for the San Diego job. One of three candidates. The other two, Marty Schottenheimer, Norv Turner, met with the president of the Chargers. Did you get that opportunity?

COTTRELL- No. No, I didn't, Mark. And I know after the hiring was completed, the process was completed, there was a press conference, and one of the reporters asked him what happened with Ted Cottrell. He said, well, he was given a five-day window, and he was also in the process of interviewing at a couple of other spots, and he couldn't make it. And that wasn't true.

SCHWARZ -- Chargers President Dean Spanos says he was willing to fly Cottrell to San Diego on the first plane available, but remembers that Cottrell had prior commitments with other teams seeking a head coach. Cottrell says no way.

COTTRELL- I would have gone out on a big wheel bike. We would have pedaled out there all night long, if need be, to get that interview with the owner. So that was not true.

SCHWARZ -- You wouldn't have missed that opportunity to interview with that owner for the world.

COTTRELL- No, no way.

SCHWARZ -- Cottrell applauds the efforts of commissioner Paul Tagliabue to raise the consciousness of NFL owners in regard to minority hiring. But he is less than impressed by a recent edict from the league's committee on diversity, which recommends that NFL owners interview at least one minority candidate whenever a head-coaching job becomes available.

SCHWARZ - What do you think of that commitment? Is that enough?

COTTRELL- It's something, but it's not enough. You know, just pick one? There's more than one. One is just not enough. Because a lot of teams -- you know what's going to happen, they're going to interview one minority and say, well, we fulfilled that.

SCHWARZ - Ten years ago, the NFL had 28 teams and two black head coaches. Today, the number of teams has increased by four, but the number of minority head coaches remains the same.

COTTRELL- How come we can't make progress here? Isn't there enough candidates? Yes, there are enough candidates. Are there choices being made to rectify this? As of lately, no. And so there's something that has to be done.

LEY- Well, the NFL does point to progress below the head coaching level. Ten years ago, less than 20 percent of assistant coaches were African-American and only two coordinators were black. The numbers now, 28 percent and 12 minority coordinators.

We welcome a member of the NFL committee on work place diversity, Bill Polian, the president of the Indianapolis Colts. Last year he hired Tony Dungy as head coach, and he also interviewed two other African-American candidates. Bill Polian joins us this morning from San Francisco.

Kellen Winslow defined the tight end position in the National Football League. And in his 1995 Hall of Fame induction speech, he spoke of the need for affirmative action and for social activism by pro athletes. He is in Phoenix this morning.

And Rich Lowry is the editor of the magazine, "National Review." He joins from us New York City. Good morning to you all, gentlemen.

Bill, you know Ted Cottrell. You interviewed him last year for the Indy job. You worked with him in Buffalo. What do you make of what could fairly be called his frustration and anger?

BILL POLIAN, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS PRESIDENT- Well, I certainly can understand it, Bob. Anyone who is as qualified as Ted and has done as good a job as Ted over the course of his career hungers for a head coaching position. And when it doesn't come, there is frustration. That's perfectly understandable. Unfortunately, there are more qualified people than there are jobs in the National Football League. It's easier to become the president of a Fortune 500 corporation than it is to become an NFL head coach. That doesn't ameliorate Ted's hurt any, but it's a fact.

LEY- Yes, but we're talking about numbers though and talking also about the issue of minority hiring, so Kellen, what of the new NFL policy requiring minorities to be in the pool of head coaching candidates?

KELLEN WINSLOW, NFL HALL OF FAME TIGHT END - Well, first of all, I'd like to comment on what Bill said about the use of the word qualified. Qualified is a subjective term that is used by owners. I mean, what does qualified mean? Does qualified mean you were a defensive coordinator someplace, or did you have success someplace else? If that's the case, then there are several people who are coaching in the National Football League right now who should not have a head-coaching job, and there are several people in the front office who should not be in those situations. There is no objective standard for the use of the word qualified. It is very subjective. I want to get that point out first.

LEY- You're calling it a code word?

WINSLOW- It's a code word, exactly is what it is. Qualified is just a code word of saying who we feel comfortable with. That's the term. It's a subjective thing. Owners do not feel comfortable with people of color. All we're trying to do in a diversity candidate slate is to get people in front of the decision makers, the ownership, and saying, hey, why not consider this individual? It's not a mandate of affirmative action. We're not saying you have to hire these people. We're not saying at 20 percent you would have met this standard if you didn't get federal money. This is not affirmative action. So an issue of talking about affirmative action in its traditional sense and use of the word is not relevant in this conversation whatsoever.

LEY- Well, Bill, how comfortable is the majority white ownership with minority head coaching candidates?

POLIAN- Well, I think I agree with about 90 percent of what Kellen said. Certainly any hiring decision is subjective. The criteria changes, the management structure changes, the salary cap changes, the player personnel changes from club to club. There are not 32 identical jobs, so the hiring is, in and of itself, subjective. That's part of the process. As far as people being uncomfortable with those of other races, that one I can't accept.

LEY- Well, Rich, now we have a requirement in place, that there be a minority candidate on the slate of anyone who's interviewed for a head coaching job. Doesn't apply to front office, and I'll talk to the commissioner about that, but what do you make of the requirement?

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW"- First of all, let me say, two NFL coaches who are black, that is a puny number, it's a ridiculous number. I have no problem with people going out and jawboning the NFL about that. Kellen Winslow has done that very effectively over the years, and he obviously has great credibility talking about these issues. I also have no problem with certain aspects of the policy the NFL has just adopted encouraging black candidates to get into the coaching pool through internships and that sort of thing.

LEY- But what do you have a problem with?

LOWRY- No problem with that whatsoever. What I do have a problem with, now that I'm through with that, is I do think forcing race into the interviewing process does smack of an aspect of our political culture that is very poisonous, and that is quota politics and grievance lawsuits. I think one of the things that Americans admire most about the NFL is that excellence in winning matters more than anything, and once you start letting Johnnie Cochran dictate league policy to you, you risk losing that. And if you look at what Johnnie Cochran...

WINSLOW- Bob, we're really wasting our time here...

LOWRY- One second...

WINSLOW- ... talking about this issue with the "National Review." I mean, I thought they went out of business years ago. This is really a waste of...

LOWRY- Well, I'll have to send you...

WINSLOW- ... quality air time...

LOWRY- ... I'll have to send...

WINSLOW- ...to address this issue.

LOWRY- ... you a subscription, Kellen.

WINSLOW- We're focusing on the policy that's in place that the commissioner and the committee put together, and not bringing this political issue of the "National Review" and their views on affirmative action. This is not about -- I repeat, this is not about affirmative action. This is about a system that has been unequal to people of color that needs to be addressed, and the commissioner and his committee has moved forward in a fashion that is not totally acceptable, but it's applicable to this point, to interview head coaches and hopefully front office people.

To bring in the "National Review," to talk about affirmative action distorts the issue and puts us in an area where we don't need to be right now. Maybe one day, if we get involved in a lawsuit, which might be coming down the road, then we can call the "National Review." Up to that point, we might as well turn off this camera in New York and move on.

LOWRY- Couple things, I'm sorry, Kellen, that I'm here. You have an argument...

WINSLOW- I'm sorry that you're here too...

LOWRY- ... with the ESPN producer...

WINSLOW- ... because it's...

LOWRY- ... I'm sorry my magazine...

WINSLOW- ... a distraction...

LOWRY- ... still publishes...

WINSLOW- ... of what we're trying to do.

LOWRY- ... and why don't we talk about the merits of this case rather than you attacking me personally and my magazine?

WINSLOW- I'm not attacking you personally.

LOWRY- Now let me make a point, Kellen...

WINSLOW- I don't know you personally.

LOWRY- You have talked many...

WINSLOW- You've made your point very irrelevant.

LOWRY- Let me address what you just said.

WINSLOW- Make your point.

LOWRY- We have allies of Johnnie Cochran saying right now, saying the Dallas Cowboys should be punished because they hired Bill Parcells. What is that if not a quota-mongering style of politics? The fact is you may not like Jerry Jones, you may not like...

LEY- Go ahead, Bill.

POLIAN- Mr. Lowry, I think you're missing the point. The point here is not what people who are not involved in the hiring process say publicly. The point is that the commissioner and the owners -- and this is an owners issue, by the way, those of us who serve on the working group are simply that -- resources. The owners have decided that they want to make the playing field as level as they possibly can, which has been a long-standing tradition in the National Football League, and that they want to make the process as transparent, as open, and as fair as they can. That's what the committee -- that's what the committee's work product is. It's what the owners have decided to do. And that's the issue, not what people may or may not say about an individual hiring.

LOWRY- Do they have a point when they say Jerry Jones...

LEY- Rich, I have to step in for a commercial. We will have a chance to resume this. You also have a chance, gentlemen, to respond to the commissioner after we get back, because I'll be speaking on tape with Paul Tagliabue about the vacancies in the league, the new policy about whether there's an anger out there that's not on his radar screen as commissioner.

LEY- On the last day of September, the National Football League was presented with an analysis of its history of black head coaches, one that was conducted by civil rights attorney Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie Cochran. The report concluded that the small number of NFL head coaches, five to date, had averaged more wins and more advances to the playoffs than white coaches over the past 15 years.

One month later, commissioner Paul Tagliabue formed a committee to study the issue of minority hiring. This week, I spoke with the commissioner.

LEY - Give me an assessment of the NFL's performance in this area, of minority hiring of head coaches.

TAGLIABUE- Well, it's not the NFL's performance. It's the performance of 32 teams. It's the performance of 32 organizations. And overall, I think it's been quite good. It's an area where we need to make progress. We need to do better. But ultimately, it comes down to the fact that we're dealing with 32 jobs that are unique and a large pool of well-qualified people searching for those jobs.

LEY- The activists who brought this to public attention in October, Cy Mehri and Johnnie Cochran, had a statistical analysis that, by their numbers, seemed to show that African-American head coaches had greater success in their limited time in the league than white coaches. What did you make of just of their, not their conclusions, but the statistical numbers in that report?

TAGLIABUE- You know, it reminded me of what Mark Twain once said about statistics, "I think that there are lies, damn lies and statistics." The statistics aren't particularly reliable unless you do them in a comprehensive way. And over time, all NFL coaches are going to, you know, half the coaches are going to be winners and half the coaches are going to be losers, because half the games are won and half the games are lost. So the records are going to go to that mid point. So you can say Italian-American coaches or Polish-American coaches or African-American coaches have a better record than the mid point, that's because they're only part of the whole.

It's a statistical anomaly. So I don't attach much weight to statistical anomalies. We certainly have been impressed by Mr. Mehri, who's been the principal spokesman with our staff, in terms of his thoughtfulness and the care that he's brought to the analysis and to the dialogue. And so that certainly has been a positive in terms of who we have reached out to in this process.

LEY- Current policy, head coach, there's a vacancy, there must be at least one minority candidate interviewed. Assistant coaches and front office personnel, chances of them being brought under that policy.

TAGLIABUE- We talked about that within the diversity committee. I think that it's happening already with the assistant coaches.

LEY- Is it required?

TAGLIABUE- It's not required, but it's happening already.

LEY- As far as what happened in Dallas, Jerry Jones, how well did he adhere to the policy of calling Dennis Green on the phone, meeting for five hours with Bill Parcells?

TAGLIABUE- Well, Jerry was kind of caught in the switches, because the Parcells meeting took place shortly before, I think several days before our diversity committee was reporting its recommendations to the owners on a series of conference calls.

He did commit to interview minority candidates. He told me that he was going to talk to Dennis Green. They agreed on the telephonic interview. And I think everyone is satisfied that there was a bona fide interest there, that Jerry acted in good faith in a bona fide way here. For the future, we do not regard telephone interviews as a substitute for personal interviews.

LEY- There are two vacancies as you and I are talking right now. How are you going to judge at the end of the day when these hires are made, whether the policy was adhered to and whether progress was made?

TAGLIABUE- Well, I think we're already in a position to know that both the Bengals and the Jacksonville Jaguars have had serious interviews with minority candidates, that they are evaluating in depth a diverse pool of candidates. It's already clear to me that they've done what they committed to do, and they've done something that clubs increasingly were doing and all clubs have now committed to do.

LEY- To what extent do you believe there may be a reservoir among African-American assistants and people in football, a reservoir out there of anger or despair about this that may not even be on your radar scope?

TAGLIABUE- Well, I'm sure there's some anger, there's some frustration. But anger and frustration is not unique to minorities in the work place. We've had a big increase in assistants and coordinators in the last five or six years, and I think the pipeline for head coaches is there.

LEY- And we're back live with Bill Polian, Kellen Winslow and Rich Lowry. Let me get to the news of the morning, which is a member, Bill, of your committee, one of 10 people. And we talked earlier. It's not you, so one of the other nine told Len Pasquarelli this morning that Marvin Lewis is quote "pretty much a lock to get the Bengals job." Now still tomorrow, the Bengals are going to interview Mike Mularkey of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now he's white, but his race is immaterial, because my question is this-- doesn't this call into question the whole efficacy and the integrity of the interview process? Somebody's mind is made up and there's still going to be an interview made tomorrow.

POLIAN- Oh, no, I don't think so. First of all, I place very little credence in those kinds of reports. There's a lot of malarkey, no pun intended, floating around at this time of year with respect to coaching hires. And knowing Mike Brown as I do, I think that he's going to go through the process thoroughly and completely and then take some time and make up his mind. So I wouldn't subscribe to that theory.

LEY- Kellen, what is there out there among people in football that you think Bill and his committee need to know that maybe they don't fully appreciate?

WINSLOW- Well, that we, the committee, who put this proposal in front of the league, we're very serious. I think the group and the legal background, Johnnie Cochran and Cyrus, are very serious about this action. I think the precedent has been set using the civil rights movement as a model, that you've got pressure from inside, you've got pressure and social protests, then you have pressure in the legal system to bring about change.

This is just a continuation of an integration process. There was a time when we couldn't play in the National Football League. Then we had more players in the league. Then we were discriminated against by position. Now we have African-American quarterbacks. Defensive, offensive coordinators, the next step is head coaches and the front office, and that's the direction that we're going.

LEY- To what extent, Bill, do you believe the threat of the civil rights lawsuit, which was contained in September when this was brought out, forced the league or urged the league along to instituting this new policy?

POLIAN- I really can't speak to that, Bob. I don't think that the threat of the lawsuit moved people. You know, the commissioner many, many years ago, started the internship program. Five, six years ago, we started the George Young and the commissioner started the coaching symposiums in order to help assistant coaches better prepare to be leaders and head coaches. So this is an ongoing process. The fact that Mr. Mehri and Mr. Cochran and Kellen and others highlighted it certainly helped. But I don't think anybody was worried about the threat of a lawsuit. What they're worried about is doing right thing.

LOWRY- And I think, Bob, also, a lawsuit is not the solution to the problem. The solution, and a lot of people will be angry about this, is time and a little patience. You have the black talent pool and coaching steadily increasing. If there's a racist cabal running the NFL, it hasn't done a very good job, because what, 1980 had 15 assistant coaches, now you have 10 times that number. And these are talented guys, like Marvin Lewis, who are going to get jobs. So steadily, this problem is going to go away.

WINSLOW- This is why this involvement with someone from the "National Review" distorts the issue. Time and patience, Martin Luther King talked about that in his letter from a Birmingham jail. We're talking about 1865, they told us to be patient. 1965...

LOWRY- Well, Kellen, who's politicizing this issue?

WINSLOW- ... was the civil rights after 1965, we were told to be patient. Here we are in 2003, and you're telling me again to be patient?

LOWRY- Well, look...

WINSLOW- Patience is something that we have been very patient with. It is now time for action. It is now time for people to put up or shut up. And we will talk about minority training programs, we talk about, you know, about helping the people become leaders. If anybody needs to go to a training program, it's the ownership. They need to go to sensitivity training. They need to be involved with people of color more, because it is an issue of owners. It's not an issue of the league. It's an issue of the owners.

LEY- All right.

LOWRY- Kellen, you vehemently attacked me for politicizing this issue, and now you're just spouting political rhetoric.

LEY- There are two vacancies right now and we will see how the owners go. Gentlemen, thank you for a spirited discussion. Bill, Kellen and Rich, I appreciate you joining us.

WINSLOW- Thank you.

POLIAN- Thank you.

LOWRY- You're welcome.

LEY- We'll be back with more Outside the Lines in just a second.

LEY- The keyword on line at ESPN.com -- OTLWEEKLY, for our library of program transcripts. Our e-mail address -- otlweekly@espn.com for your thoughts on our minority report.