The respected Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes minority candidates and seeks equal job opportunities for NFL head coach and front-office positions, has been “surprised” no minority coach has been tapped during the current hiring cycle. And chairman John Wooten on Thursday tackled the question whether that places added pressure on the Miami Dolphins or Cincinnati Bengals to hire such a candidate:
“No, I don’t think that. No,” Wooten said of the idea of pressure on the two remaining teams without a head coach. “We’re at a point in time when people look at and pick who they think is their best guy to take over and move their club forward. Whoever they think is that guy, that’s who it’s going to be. I think all of them have done that.
“Have there been some surprises? Yes. But that’s what all of them do. Who can help this club win? And that’s the bottom line — to win. In my opinion there isn’t any [pressure] added, no.”
That doesn’t mean Wooten is happy with how things have transpired so far.
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The FPA annually supplies the NFL with a list of minority candidates it believes worthy of consideration for open jobs. None of the men on that list have been hired during this coach hiring cycle.
“I’m very much aware of that, yes,” Wooten said. “The thing we’re looking at, I’ll be very open and frank with you, I’m very much surprised at some of the hirings that have been done so far. Like anything else, different people like different things, so that’s what you have to deal with.
“However, I feel that the searches in all places, they had diversity of interviews. You said, which we’re all aware, no minorities have been hired. We hope some will be.”
Three of the four coach candidates the Dolphins have interviewed so far are black — Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Dallas defensive backs and passing game coordinator Kris Richard and New England linebackers coach Brian Flores.
The fourth candidate interviewed so far — New Orleans defensive coordinator Dennis Allen — is white as is Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi — who is scheduled to interview Friday.
Wooten made clear he likes all those candidates.
But in judging other teams’ hiring practices so far as, Wooten wasn’t so thrilled.
“Let me put it to you this way,” he said, “we thought there would be probably four [minority] possibilities particular teams would go for. The surprise, if you could call it that, was the Arizona hiring. That was a little bit surprising.
“I think what they were trying to do was, everybody wants the quarterback whisperer, right? There’s a lot of talk about the new offenses and so forth even though these offenses are not new in this league.
“The other situation I was a little bit surprised in was the Jets hiring. Because when I sit and look at the fact Brian Flores coming out of New England. New England has dominated the AFC East over there. And Brian Flores would probably know about the Jets more than anybody.”
The Jets hired former Dolphins coach Adam Gase on Wednesday night, but Wooten made it clear he’s not being critical of Gase.
“It certainly doesn’t say anything’s wrong with Adam Gase,” he said. “He’s a young guy that I think is a pretty good coach.”
The Dolphins are considering good coaches to replace Gase, according to Wooten.
“I think the three people that they’ve interviewed, the fact they’re still where they are in terms of the [playoffs] speaks to the quality of people that they are,” Wooten said. “My guys, as I say, they’re still fighting for a chance to get to Atlanta. And they’re heavily involved with their particular clubs.”
And Wooten makes a sound case for each.
“Kris Richard has had as much to do with Dallas being turned around and headed forward as anybody in the league,” Wooten said. “He’s just been outstanding in putting this thing together. You have to praise [Dallas defensive coodinator Rod] Marinelli and [Dallas executive vice president] Stephen Jones and those guys for what they’ve allowed him to do. They’ve recognized what he brought to the table and have utilized it in moving forward.”
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“Eric Bieniemy is an outstanding young guy and the work he’s done with that offense and Patrick Mahomes has been great, and Andy Reid would be the first to tell you that.
“And Flores, even though he doesn’t have the title of defensive coordinator, he puts everything together for that defense. And he’s sitting right there in your division.”
Wooten did not disparage the idea of Allen being hired in Miami, although it’s obvious he prefers the Dolphins go with “his guys.”
“Dennis has been at the top. He’s been a head coach at this league,” Wooten said. “And he’s doing a good job with New Orleans.”
Still, Wooten, who has known Dolphins general manager Chris Grier and his father Bobby Grier a long time, would love for the Dolphins to make their next head coach their first minority coach. And that means Richard, Bieniemy or Flores.
“They’re outstanding people,” Wooten said. “They have shown their ability to win at this level. They’re deserve the opportunity because they have done the job. When you look at the three people we’re talking about -- Kris Richard, Eric Bieniemy and Brian Flores -- they’ve all shown they’re deserving.
“When you look at the work these three guys have done in terms of their rise to where they are today, they’ve covered the right path. And the importance of the role they play in their success of their team is quite significant.”