Filling Top Jobs Not Black and White

Once upon a time, the North Texas division of the NAACP found itself hungry for headlines. If you are an attack dog and you reside in Dallas, and you want to sink your teeth into a juicy leg, you chomp on the Dallas Cowboys.

So it was that the NAACP launched a campaign to force Jerry Jones to hire for the Cowboys a team vice president who was a person of color.

Now, I'm as liberal and open-minded as the next guy. (In fact, compared to my Texas brethren, I might be a little more liberal and a little more open-minded than the next guy, but as writer and as a radio talk-show host, I find that position increasingly indefensible as it affects my ability to put bread in my babies' mouths and 150-dollar Nikes on my babies' feet. So let me just say I love my president and be done with it, OK?)

So initially, I listened intently to the NAACP's plea: Jerry Jones' Cowboys are one of the most prominent and powerful businesses in Texas (in the world, really). Yet at the time, their management structure allowed for no blacks in vice-presidential positions.

It was true. While blacks did hold prominent positions on those mid-90's Cowboys – black guys were registering most of the touchdowns, sacks and interceptions – none of them had an office over in the Valley Ranch executive wing.

But wait. … who were the Cowboys' top executives?

President: Jerry Jones
Vice President: Stephen Jones
Director of Marketing: Charlotte Jones

The NAACP had Jerry by the throat, except. … was the reason the Cowboys' top execs happened to be white because Jerry Jones practiced racism in hiring? Or because he and the mother of his children, the lovely Gene, both happened to be Caucasians?

I suggested to the NAACP people at the time that if Jerry Jones has a black son out there somewhere, and if that son had played football at Arkansas, earned a degree in chemical engineering, and spent 20 hours a day since 1989 learning how to run a football team, that said black man would indeed be a team vice president, but that it just so happened that the person with all those credentials was Jerry's WHITE son, Stephen.

I suggested to them that if Jerry Jones had a black daughter out there somewhere, and she had job experience as a model and educational experience at both Stanford and Georgetown, that said black woman would indeed be a team vice president, but that it just so happened that the person with all those credentials was Jerry's WHITE daughter, Charlotte.

Fast-forward to the NFL's attempts to Affirmative-Action blacks into top jobs. In 2004, the 32 NFL teams employed the Jets' Herm Edwards, the Cardinals' Denny Green, the Bears' Lovie Smith, the Bengals' Marvin Lewis, the Colts' Tony Dungy and the Browns' interim coach, Terry Robiskie.

That's six of 32. Should there be more? Would 16 of 32 be the right number? How about 32 of 32? Or, should there be less?

Six of 32. Could be better, used to be worse, I say.

Let's chew on some more names: Here's the list of 2004 NFL coordinators who happen to be black: Buffalo Bills' Jerry Gray (defensive coordinator), New England's Romeo Crennel (defensive coordinator), NY Jets' Donnie Henderson (defensive coordinator), Cincinnati's Leslie Frazier (defensive coordinator), Indy's Ron Meeks (defensive coordinator), Oakland's Jimmy Ray (offensive coordinator), Dallas' Maurice Carthon (offensive coordinator), NY Giants' Tim Lewis (defensive coordinator), Washington's Greg Blache (defensive coordinator), Detroit's Sherman Lewis (offensive coordinator), Minnesota's Ted Cottrell (defensive coordinator), Arizona's Alex Wood (offensive coordinator) and Seattle's Ray Rhodes (defensive coordinator).

Now, take a deep breath. … Which of those 13 men simply must be promoted to an NFL head coaching job?

This is admittedly subjective, but here goes: Gray, Henderson, and Frazier did fine jobs but lack experience. Meeks, Ray, Carthon, Tim Lewis, Sherman Lewis, Cotrell, Wood and Rhodes did not doing eye-catching jobs. Blache is accomplished and experienced. Crennel, even more so – and he's now No. 6, having replaced Robiskie in Cleveland.

So congratulations to me! I've come up with TWO candidates from 2004 deserving of top jobs of in 2005. Two. So there should be eight of 32. And would that be enough?

Oh, cripes. Wait a minute. I forgot: When LSU's Nick Saban (who is white) comes available, shouldn't an NFL team snap him up? Were the Miami Dolphins wrong to determine that Saban is superior to, say, Greg Blache?

Watchdog outfits intent on enforcing the NFL's minority hiring policy (in short, teams must include a black face in the interview process, thus my snarky "Affirmative-Action'' dig) are now upset with Saban's team, the Miami Dolphins. With little delay, Miami recently signed Randy Mueller to be their general manager. Miami, the watchdogs bark, did so without interviewing an African-American.

The Dolphins counter, a bit clumsily, that they did their GM research A YEAR AGO, when they were also searching to fill the spot.

The watchdog group is technically right, of course.

By rule, last year's interviews don't count; using the Miami logic, a team can grandfather-clause itself into the safety zone by claiming that 10, 20, 30 years ago, they did interview a black guy, and therefore they needn't ever interview another one.

What really happened: The Dolphins picked the guy they wanted. … instead of bothering to conduct a bogus interview with a black guy they didn't want.

Is this racism? Nah. It is an issue of "comfortability'' – white people wanting to be around other white people? Maybe, and that's not pretty. Did the NAACP's Cowboys-related focus work? Jones – a front-runner with his Minority Coaching Fellowship, a training ground for young black coaches to intern at Valley Ranch -- did respond by hiring more people of color throughout the organization, and still seems quite open-minded about the movement.

But after more than a decade of letting this issue bang around in my head, as much as I want progress, I'm still stuck where I was in the mid-90's with the North Texas branch of the NAACP: How do you force Jerry Jones to NOT like his own son for a Cowboys' job? And a decade later, how do you FORCE Miami to NOT like Randy Mueller for a Dolphins' job?

Mike Fisher is the editor of www.DallasBasketball.com and hosts a daily sports-talk show, "Fish For Lunch,'' noon-to-3 on 990 Texas Talk Radio (990am in North Texas, and www.990texastalkradio.com on the web.) Contact him at Fish@DallasBasketball.com.

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