Last Sunday morning was filled with a handful of juicy stories across the sports world. From Mike McIntyre’s firing as the Colorado football coach to the rumors that the Jacksonville Jaguars were shopping All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. While both of those stories were interesting, neither were as interesting as the news that the Cleveland Browns were interested in interviewing former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. An interview with Rice would be the first time that a female would interview for a head coaching job in the NFL. Rice has already been a trailblazer. She was the first black female Secretary of State (as well as the second black Secretary after Colin Powell). She was also one of the first two women to be admitted as members to Augusta National Golf Club and was a member of the inaugural selection committee for the College Football Playoff.
Browns' general manager John Dorsey said last week that he was open to hiring a woman as the next head coach in Cleveland and a league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the Browns wanted to interview Rice.
Later that day, Dorsey issued a statement.
“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,” he said.
Rice also posted on Facebook that she is “not ready to coach” but she said she would like to help call a play or two if the Browns need any ideas. She also joked that she will never call for a “prevent defense.” The report made waves on social media, primarily negative. Just like when Rice was named to the selection committee for the College Football Playoff, some of the negativity was simply just misogynistic and did not give her a chance because she is a woman. I was split. I liked the idea of giving a woman a shot, but I feel like Rice isn’t the best choice for head coach. While she does know about sports, her lack of coaching experience is a major red flag. I am sure she could have used her experience as Secretary of State to help run the team, but there are other women that would deserve it more. Andrew Wegley, assistant sports editor the Northwest Missourian at Northwest Missouri State had a great response to this on Twitter.
“It seems like a publicity stunt to me. It would be dope to have a female head coach in the NFL, but to interview someone with zero coaching experience while other women have been toiling away as assistants waiting for their shot seems like a slap in the face of gender equality,” Wegley said in a tweet reply between him and me discussing the topic.
He is exactly right. A female head coach is not something that we should shy away from, but the hard work that female coaches like Katie Sowers of the San Fransisco 49ers put in shouldn’t be overshadowed by someone with a lack of experience. Rice may know the game, but I know football too. Should the Browns hire me? No. I do think it is good that a woman could get a shot though. There are plenty of women who know just as much football and other sports as men do. There are plenty of female coaches in female sports that are just as good and better than their male counterparts. Pat Summitt would have been an incredible basketball coach in the men’s college level or the NBA.
But people will come back with the argument that a Rice or a Sowers can’t be a head coach because they never played. OK? You don’t have to play to be a good coach. Of all the current NFL coaches, only a small handful played. The list of players who played at a high level is even smaller. Mike Vrabel had arguably the best pro career of any current NFL head coach. Ron Rivera, Todd Bowles and Jason Garrett also had decent careers, but Bill Belichick is considered one of the greatest coaches of all time. He saw some playing time at a Division III school but wasn’t anything special and he was more of a lacrosse player. Adam Gase of the Miami Dolphins didn’t even play past high school. Former Chiefs coach Todd Haley didn’t even do that, but his dad was a player personnel analyst for three NFL teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1971-1990, which included four Super Bowl titles. We can argue if Todd Haley should have ever been a head coach or not, but he still got the job without playing a single down of high school football. We also have men coaching women’s sports. Should Nebraska fire John Cook as head volleyball coach because he never played women’s volleyball? No. That is stupid. So why is it different for a woman?
There have already been a few women that have assistant coaching experience in the NFL. Jennifer Welter was the first as an intern in 2015 with the Arizona Cardinals. Kathryn Smith followed the next season as the first full-time coach as the Special Teams Quality Control Coach for the Buffalo Bills in 2016. I also mentioned Sowers who is an offensive assistant for the San Fransisco 49ers since last season. The only issue with all of these is they still are low on the totem pole for assistant coaches. If I am the Browns, I would shy away from hiring a female head coach right now, but at least give one of these women or others across the lower levels a shot as position coaches and coordinators. That could lead to a head coaching job down the line. I think it is time that we as a society accept the fact that females can and should be able to coach in men’s sports. We already have men coaching women’s sports. It is time to stop the stigma that a woman cannot do it and we should let qualified women join the coaching ranks.
Luke Peterson is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org