Three things worth noting in the latest batch of NFL coaching hires:
1. Of the seven newly-named head coaches, only one is African American (Hue Jackson, Cleveland). The remaining six are Caucasian (Chip Kelly, San Francisco; Mike Mularkey, Tennessee; Doug Pedersen, Kansas City; Adam Gase, Miami; Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay; and Ben McAdoo, New York Giants).
Why is this worth mentioning? Because as long as the NFL implements the Rooney Rule, the implication is discrimination still exists among league owners when it comes to hiring minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs.
Assuming that Pedersen will become head coach in Philadelphia in the coming days now that Kansas City Chiefs has been eliminated by New England in the AFC divisional round, five of the 32 NFL coaches are African-American. You draw your own conclusions.
The Rooney Rule often is cited as an example of affirmative action, though there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates. The RR only ensures that teams must interview at least one minority candidate for those jobs. It sounds good in theory but teams are known to violate the spirit of the rule with token interviews.
Kelly (Philadelphia), Mularkey (Buffalo, Jacksonville) and Jackson (Oakland) are former NFL head coaches. Pedersen, Gase, Koetter and McAdoo are newbies.
2. None of the new coaches is named Sean Payton. According to New Orleans Saints GM Mickey Loomis, reports that he was negotiating a form of compensation with other teams for Payton's services were not true. "I never had a discussion with another team,'' Loomis said. "No one called me and I didn't call anyone else.''
That may be true. But Payton's agent, Donald Yee, could have worked the phones behind the scenes and served as the intermediary in any discussion with interested teams. That's what agents do.
There may not have been an actual fire but the months of billowing smoke in NFL skies (as reported by numerous reputable reporters) suggested Payton was feeling a bit of wanderlust.
Read between the lines.
3. Of the seven new coaches, six are former NFL offensive coordinators and Kelly's expertise lies on the offensive side of the ball.
In today's quarterback-driven league, where QBs command upwards of $100 million in compensation and often are the face of the franchise, it makes perfect sense for an offensive minded coach to be in charge of the team.
In some cases, the hire is meant to keep continuity in a system and philosophy; for example, McAdoo-QB Eli Manning; Koetter-rookie QB Jameis Winston; Mularkey-rookie QB Marcus Mariota; Gase-QB Ryan Tannehill. In other cases, the coach may be required to fix a real or perceived problem at the quarterback position; such as, Kelly-QB Colin Kaepernick; Pedersen-Sam Bradford; Jackson-QB Johnny Manzeil or someone else.
Tennessee put a halt to the NFL coaching carousel Saturday, removing the interim tag from Mularkey. The Titans went 2-7 under Mularkey, finishing the season at 3-13 to claim the No. 1 overall draft pick.
Mularkey bested a field of candidates that included Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Jacksonville assistant head coach/offensive line coach Doug Marrone and Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. Apparently, newly-named Titans' GM Jon Robinson decided against waiting to interview New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, whose team remains in the hunt for Super Bowl 50.
Tennessee represented the fifth head coaching interview this offseason for Austin, a highly acclaimed defensive coordinator who happens to be African American. He also reportedly interviewed for openings in Miami, Cleveland, New York and Philadelphia.
Those who know Austin best say his day will come. I hope they are right. You draw your own conclusions.
Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, writes a bi-weekly column for the Sun Herald