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The National Football League will begin its new season this week with glitz and glamour of a Hollywood movie opening and there will only be four Black head coaches and five Black starting quarterbacks.
In a major professional sports league dominated by its African American players, the head coaching ranks had always been as elusive as Reggie Bush when it came to men of color obtaining the top post.
White men are elevated much quicker than Blacks in the NFL coaching ranks and as the season is set to kick off the most successful coaches from last year were Blacks Tony Dungy of the Colts and Lovie Smith of the Bears who made history coaching against each other in Super Bowl XLI.
Dungy the most successful of Black coaches in the history of the league has 60 victories against just 20 losses in six seasons at the helm of the Super Bowl champion Colts.
His 11 years as head coach in the league of shame dwarfs any other man of color.
Smith finally got his shot just three years ago after taking a dormant Rams defense and developing it into among the league’s elite.
Named Coach of the Year after the 2005 season for becoming the fastest coach to lead his team to a division title, Smith is 16-16 in two years with the Bears, but last season with an inept quarterback, he led the Bears to the Super Bowl where they lost 29-17 to the high voltage Colts.
Then there is Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis who cut his teeth in coaching at Long Beach State, which no longer has a football program.
Lewis will be entering his fifth season in Cincinnati where his team is 35-29, but he didn’t even get a sniff in the NFL until after laboring for 11 years in the collegiate ranks when the Steelers hired him as their linebackers’ coach.
Across the state of Ohio is Cleveland Browns mentor Romeo Crenell, the longest tenured Black coach in the NFL with 26 years experience and 37 years of coaching experience including the college ranks, but it wasn’t until three years ago that he landed the job in Cleveland.
Crenell led the Browns to a 6-10 record in his initial season, but the team fell to 4-12 last season and he will really feel the heat this year.
The number of Black coaches is down from five a year ago because the Raiders abruptly fired Art Shell after just one season on the job and hired Lane Kiffin, a previous college assistant at USC without any head coaching experience.
The tragedy of Michael Vick has decreased the number of Black starting quarterbacks to just four with Donovan McNabb at Philadelphia, Vince Young at Tennessee and Jason Campbell at Washington and Daunte Culpepper at the Oakland Raiders, respectively.
McNabb is the last Black signal caller to lead his team to the Super Bowl, but at the rate he’s going, Young is certainly in line to be the next great big thing.
Young led the Titans to an 8-5 record in his rookie season fresh out of Texas as a junior and passed for 2,199 yards and 12 touchdowns. He rushed for another 522 yards becoming the first rookie quarterback since 1966 to rush for 500 yards as a rookie. He also rushed for seven touchdowns.
Campbell will get his first start for the Redskins, while Culpepper is just holding down the back hole until Raiders first round pick JaMarcus Russell is ready to take over.
For Culpepper, he fits right into the Raiders mold of a veteran quarterback and brings the same intangibles to the table as Russell.
Strap on your chinstrap, pull your helmet down and click the remote for what promises to be another season of broken hearts and boulevard dreams.