Last month, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Celevand Browns general manager John Dorsey was open to hiring a woman as the team’s next head coach—specifically former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The Browns denied the report, but if true, she would have been the first woman to interview for an NFL head coaching position.
“Our coaching search will be thorough and deliberate, but we are still in the process of composing the list of candidates and Secretary Rice has not been discussed,” Dorsey said.
In response, Rice, a lifelong Browns fan who began watching Cleveland’s games with her father, went to Facebook to reiterate that she is “not ready to coach,” but “would like to call a play or two next season if the Browns need ideas.” She also addressed the elephant in the room: the lack of female coaches in the NFL.
“On a more serious note, I do hope that the NFL will start to bring women into the coaching profession as position coaches and eventually coordinators and head coaches,” she wrote.
There is no doubt that women have been making historical and momentous strides in industries once deemed “male only.”
For example, “Women like Safra Catz, Mary Barra, and Marillyn Hewson are running Fortune 500 companies. Twenty percent of Congress is female. As of 2013, there were 69 women serving as a general or an admiral in the United States Armed Forces, 39 women have served as U.S. governors, and this past August the Marine Corps named its first female platoon commander. Not to mention that little 2016 election in which Hillary Clinton won the popular vote for president,” writes SB Nation’s Tim Struby.
However, despite these advances, the reality is not much progress has been made in “the realm of coaching men’s sports.”
In fact, according to Struby, “Of the roughly 2,600 coaches employed by the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, and MLB (this includes minor league affiliates), the number of women coaching isn’t a Congress-like 20 percent. It’s not even one percent. Of that 2,600, the total number of female coaches is six.”
While some, such as New York sports talk radio host Mike Francesa, still believe the idea of a female head coach in men’s professional sports is absolutely ridiculous, others say women simply don’t have the kind of experience to lead a team of male football or basketball players.
— bomani (@bomani_jones) November 20, 2018
According to Struby, “When athletes, executives, and experts talk about what it takes to be a coach in the pros, that one word comes up more than any other. Experience. Playing the game and living the life.”
Even Rice, who not only served in the George W. Bush administration but also chaired the Commission on College Basketball that attempted to root out the corruption in the sport and sat on the College Football Playoff selection committee for three years, acknowledged that she does not have the experience to coach an NFL team.
In addition, sports commentator Stephen A. Smith said of ESPN’s report, “Oh Please. Just stop it, incredible respect to our former Sec’y of State……but there is no football resume.”
“There are several women who’ve already developed a resume in the NFL that would warrant consideration. Give them a look first. That is the right thing to do.”
Smith makes a fair point: There are more qualified women for the Brown’s head coach position than Rice—women such as Kathryn Smith, who served as the Buffalo Bills’ special teams quality control coach, and Jen Welter who, in 2015, was hired by the Arizona Cardinals as a linebackers’ coach during training camp. But let’s face it, having experience playing a sport isn’t a fixed rule, and it’s certainly not always the most important criteria.
“I don’t subscribe to the theory that you had to have done it to be an expert. Expertise in a sport can come a lot of different ways,” says Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who, despite having batted a disappointing .219 in 350 games as a major league athlete went on to win the 2017 World Series in only his fifth year as a manager, writes Struby.
Todd Haley, the Kansas City Chiefs’ former head coach, never played football at any level. Instead, he played golf in high school and college.
Nevertheless, according to Fox Sports, when asked about their coach’s background at the time, the Chiefs players said it didn’t matter a bit: “There’s not a man in this locker room who questions his qualifications,” said wide receiver Bobby Wade.
“Unfortunately, some NFL players will look at their coach and if he’s not in that fraternity of ex-players, sometimes they might let it affect the way they look at him,” said Tim Grunhard, a former Chiefs center. “I think that’s a big mistake. A lot of outstanding NFL coaches never played much at all.”
Again, though experience is vital, commitment and dedication to the game and its players are, in my opinion, worth so much more. As a coach, you have to not only be able to lead your players on the field, but also inspire and encourage them on days when life and personal struggles get in the way of playing the game. Women, like men, are capable of doing both. It’s time we stop making excuses about experience and give them a fighting chance.