We all know that for many years the African American coach, for some reason, might not have gotten their just due, not only in the National Football League but in major college football as well. But as a former player and coach I am proud to say that the Green Bay Packers have been part of the solution and not the problem.
The Green Bay Packers have been an organization that doesn't care about the color of your skin when it comes to coaching. They care about the knowledge you possess in your brain. I remember when I came to Green Bay with Mike Holmgren as a player. I was pleasantly surprised with the attitude of the organization, from Bob Harlan to Ron Wolf, as it did everything to make Green Bay special for all men, and it is. Not only that but the Packers did everything to improve the advancement of minority coaches.
I know some people don't think it is a big deal, but it is to those that might walk in the shoes of a black man, which I do. As I look at the significance of Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith facing each other in Super Bowl XLI, I see nothing but progress. Do we still have a long way to go? Yes, but I am glad to say the Green Bay Packers were giving minority coaches the opportunity long before there was some mandatory hiring process in place. Wolf and Holmgren hired Sherman Lewis and Ray Rhodes because they were excellent as offensive and defensive coordinators.
Even though the Ray Rhodes hiring here in 1999 didn't work, it wasn't because he was black or white. It was because he just didn't get the job done. The greatest thing was that he got the opportunity. He had proven himself as the head coach of the Eagles. Bob Harlan and Ron Wolf didn't allow the color of his skin from getting in the way of him being hired and they didn't when they fired him, either. Even though outside sources wanted to allow that to be a distraction they never made it about race. That reminds me of how special this organization is.
I was lucky as a player and coach because I got to be part of two great organizations in the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. Men were judged by their actions and the strength in their handshake, as their words became their bond. These organizations were ahead of the time no doubt about it.
The Green Bay Packers, even though they have been surviving in the small market, have taken giant steps to becoming part of the solution when they gave Ray Rhodes the opportunity to be their head coach. As fans we must understand it isn't just about winning games, it's about changing the course of history which the Packers have been part of. Think about it how many organizations have given minorities the opportunities to really excel. Even as recently as last week, Mike McCarthy put Winston Moss in position to advance his career and not hold him down.
Was it a popular decision when Ron Wolf gave Ray Rhodes the head job coaching the Green Bay Packers? Maybe not, especially considering that Andy Reid was a prime candidate and did get the job at Philly when Rhodes came here. If the Packers wanted to they could have overlooked Ray for Andy, but they didn't because even though Andy was an up-and-coming star on the coaching front it wouldn't have been the right thing to do. So they didn't and lost out, but did they really?
As fans we need to be very proud of this organization that is about bridging the gap and rewarding everyone with the same brush of humanity and respect regardless of race creed or color. Football is a game about winning and losing, and the scoreboard shows the results, but the Packers, as an organization, are much more than that. They are about opportunity and creating an environment where everyone - the players and coaches - has a level playing field, which will allow for dreams to be reached because THEY SEE NO COLOR.
Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.