In the history of the National Football League (NFL), only two black head coaches have won the Super Bowl. While opportunities for blacks to coach in the NFL are rare, the few who have headlined the sport are doing exploits with Dungy and Tomlin setting the pace for the top goal.
The first to set the record was Dungy, who led the Indianapolis Colts to victory against the Chicago Bears in 2007. Two years later, Tomlin was holding the torch with another win, a promising light for the black community. Sadly, the torch has dimmed since black coaches are not given enough chance to shine longer in the NFL as far as their skills and talent are concerned.
Who is Tony Dungy?
Tony Dungy joined Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh coaching staff at the age of 25, becoming the league’s youngest assistant. He became the defensive coordinator three years later.
After his Indianapolis Colts defeated the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, it took until 2007 for a black head coach like Dungy to win a Super Bowl. Interestingly enough, the Bears were coached by Lovie Smith, which raised the odds of any club winning the Super Bowl that year. The historical reality that it took so long for a black coach to win the Super Bowl still shocks many today.
Who is Mike Tomlin?
Mike Tomlin is the youngest coach to lead his squad to the championship game.
Tomlin led the Steelers to a 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals two years after Dungy.
The fact that Dungy and Smith made it to the Super Bowl was historic in and of itself since, up until that moment, no black head coach had even advanced that far. During Super Bowl XLIV, Tomlin and Jim Caldwell followed the glowing light. Tomlin never played in the NFL, but he has been coaching there since 2001, reaching a significant milestone in 2009.
He started in Tampa Bay as Tony Dungy’s defensive backs coach. And from 2002 to 2005, he performed the same actions for Jon Gruden.
It’s interesting to note that he was hired on the same day Tony Dungy of the Colts and Lovie Smith of the Bears both won the Super Bowl.
In Tomlin’s first season, the Steelers finished 10-6 and captured the AFC North championship. After two seasons, he was the most winning coach in Steelers’ history, claiming the 2008 Motorola NFL Coach of the Year award.
In his first two seasons as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach, Tomlin won 22 games, breaking previous records. He entered the season with a regular-season record of 15-7.
Tomlin became the youngest NFL coach to win the Super Bowl on February 1, 2009, despite their slow start.
Why black coaches are few in the NFL
The number of black coaches in the NFL has everything to do with diversity and equality, although the owners of the clubs would argue otherwise. Since the formation of the NFL, black coaches, including those from minority groups, have been sidelined from heading various clubs as coaches.
You may ask why, but no explanation has been enough to justify why. The reasons are clear and visible—all pointing to racism. That’s why the Rooney Rule was introduced in 2003 to include at least one minority group during interviews for a head coaching position in the NFL. Recently, this number has been increased to two. Yet, the story remains the same.
Currently, only three black coaches are in the NFL, 19 years after the introduction of the Rooney Rule.
Who were the first 10 NFL black head coaches in history?
1. Frederick “Fritz” Pollard
When Pollard was appointed co-coach of the Akron Pros in 1921 during the American Professional Football Association era, he became the first black coach in NFL history.
He was also a standout running back for Brown University, where he was named All-America in 1916.
2. Art Shell
Shell was the first black head coach in the NFL’s modern era, 68 years after Pollard became the first black head coach.
From 1989 through 1994, he served as the Raider’s head coach. In 2006, he took over again for a single season. With an overall record of 56–52, he made it to the 1990 AFC championship game.
3. Dennis Green
Between 1992 and 2001, Green led the Vikings for ten seasons as their head coach, leading them to the playoffs eight times.
Between 2004 and 2006, he also led the Cardinals for three seasons, finishing his coaching career with a 113-94 overall record.
4. Ray Rhodes
As a 49ers assistant, Rhodes won the Super Bowl five times. From 1995 to 1999, he also served as the head coach of the Eagles and Packers, compiling a 37-42-1 record.
In 1995, he received the Sporting News Coach of the Year award.
5. Tony Dungy
Dungy had a Hall of Fame career that spanned 13 seasons with the Buccaneers and Colts, compiling 139 victories and 69 defeats.
In 2006, he steered Indianapolis to the team’s second Super Bowl victory.
6. Herman Edwards
Between 2001 and 2005, Edwards led the Jets for eight NFL seasons as head coach. His overall record when he left the league was 54-74.
He returned to coaching when he accepted the position of head coach at Arizona State in 2017. in September 2022. Edwards was dismissed.
7. Marvin Lewis
Lewis accepted a new post inside the division, coaching the Bengals from 2003–2018, after serving as the defensive coordinator for the Ravens from 1996–2001.
In 16 seasons, he had a 131-122-3 record and seven playoff appearances.
In 2009, he received the AP Coach of the Year award.
8. Lovie Smith
Before his brief tenure with the Buccaneers in 2014–2015, Smith spent nearly ten years as the Bears’ head coach between 2004 and 2012.
In February 2022, he was named the Texans’ head coach.
In the first six weeks of the 2022 season, he has a record of 90-90-1 overall.
9. Terry Robiskie
In his coaching career, Robiskie served as an interim head coach twice, with the Commanders in 2000 and the Browns in 2004. In eight games, he had a 2-6 record.
10. Romeo Crennel
During his tenure with the Browns from 2005 to 2008, the Chiefs from 2011 to 2012, and the Texans from 2020, Crennel had a 32-63 record.
He was the oldest head coach in NFL history when he took the helm in Houston at the age of 73.
Overall, only two black head coaches have won Super Bowls in the history of the NFL. Since its formation, however, out of 191 men, only 24 total black men have ever served as head coaches. This figure represents only 13 percent.