To be clear, hiring Condoleeza Rice as an NFL head coach would be insane.
It wouldn’t be thinking outside the box. Rather, it’d be thinking with your head inside a box that’s struck repeatedly with a baseball bat.
This has nothing to do with Rice’s gender. The idea would be sheer lunacy for a man with identical credentials, too. Their intelligence, education, and impressive backgrounds in international affairs would make them fascinating dinner companions. But you wouldn’t necessarily either one with clock management at the end of a half.
“I love my Browns – and I know they will hire an experienced coach to take us to the next level,” Rice wrote on Facebook Sunday after ESPN reported that Cleveland wanted to interview her for the job. “BTW – I’m not ready to coach but I would like to call a play or two next season if the Browns need ideas! And at no time will I call for a ‘prevent defense.’”
I understand the notion of coach as CEO, someone who empowers coordinators and assistants to do the heavy lifting. But giving the job to someone who has never coached at any level would be an insult to the profession.
It’s hard enough to make a case for those who have never been a coordinator (although Baltimore found success with John Harbaugh). Still, at least position coaches have been in the facility and on the practice field. They’ve seen how things work. The same is true for quality control assistants, who appear similar to graduate assistants on college teams.
Hiring one of those nameless individuals as head coach would be a stretch.
Hiring Rice would be a reach.
“Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a great leader, possesses the highest possible character and also happens to be a Browns fan,” general manager John Dorsey said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect and admiration for all she’s accomplished and was honored to meet her for the first time earlier this season. 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 lit the fuse last week when he discussed the job opening, currently filled by Gregg Williams on an interim basis. “I just want the best possible head coach to move this thing forward regardless of age,” he said via Cleveland.com. “It could be a woman, too. I am serious. Who knows? We will look at everything is what I am trying to tell you.”
Considering a woman is as radical as interviewing one, but not as far-fetched as the notion once was.
The Arizona Cardinals in 2015 made Jen Welter the first woman with an NFL coaching internship. Kathryn Smith became the league’s first full-time female coach when she joined the Buffalo Bills as a special-teams assistant in January 2016. There currently are three women on NFL coaching staffs., and the league scouts for prospects in high and college football.
We’re not there yet, but there could come a time where the Browns or another team’s head coach isn’t a guy. Rice is better suited for a desk in the front office opposes to a headset on the sideline, but she understands what’s necessary for women to take the next step.
“I do hope that the NFL will start to bring women in the coaching profession as position coaches and eventually coordinators and head coaches,” she wrote on her Facebook post. “One doesn’t have to play the game to understand it and motivate players. But experience counts – and it is time to develop a pool of experienced women.”
These movements don’t occur overnight or naturally. Just ask all the black players who became assistants but never got a shot at the top spot. There are only 32 jobs and the owners’ comfort zone has only recently expanded to give black assistant coaches more consideration; women will have an even harder time being accepted.
But it has to start somewhere, as the NBA has proven. San Antonio assistant Becky Hammon is now a head coaching candidate in her fourth season working with Greg Popovich. Three other teams have women in a coaching role, including the Washington Wizards, who hired Kristi Toliver last month.
Rice has listed NFL commissioner as one of her dream jobs. Roger Goodell couldn’t pack his office fast enough if I had a vote. Or, if I owned a struggling team, adding her to the front office in some capacity would have serious appeal.
However, a coaching candidate?
She’s brilliant, but no.
• Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter@DeronSnyder.
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