Home Sports Goodwin: Wilks’ firing amid no black hires ‘hurt’

Goodwin: Wilks’ firing amid no black hires ‘hurt’

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Goodwin: Wilks’ firing amid no black hires ‘hurt’
10:15 AM ET

  • Jenna LaineESPN Staff Writer

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    • Covered the Buccaneers since 2009
    • Joined ESPN in 2016

TAMPA, Fla. — New Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant head coach and run-game coordinator Harold Goodwin didn’t mince words Friday when asked about his disappointment over the firing of head coach Steve Wilks in Arizona after one season, and over the lack of minority hires around the NFL overall.

“That hurt a little bit,” said Goodwin, who is African-American. “He’s a friend of mine. We worked together back in the day with the Bears. It’s hard to build something from the ground up with one year. It’s like, ‘Hey, I want you to start this Fortune 500 company, but you’ve got one year.’ That’s impossible. And that’s what he was tasked with.

“But God will look after him. He’ll be OK in the long run, and hopefully he’ll get another opportunity.”

This season has been particularly difficult for minority coaches. Five of the eight head coaches fired either during or after the 2018 season — Wilks, Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns, Todd Bowles of the New York Jets, Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals and Vance Joseph of the Denver Broncos — are black.

Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers are the only current black head coaches in the NFL.

Meanwhile, of the eight recent head-coaching vacancies, not a single minority has been among the six hires made, though sources told ESPN’s Jeff Darlington on Friday evening that the Miami Dolphins are “hoping” to hire New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, who is black and the son of Honduran immigrants.

Goodwin, who served as offensive coordinator under new Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians while with the Cardinals from 2013 to 2017, has interviewed for several head-coaching positions over the years, including with the Bucs in 2016, but he encountered several roadblocks.

“Every time I went in to interview, ‘You don’t call plays.’ Well, I did call plays in the preseason,” Goodwin said. Arians was the playcaller in the regular season. “Are we looking for playcallers or are we looking for leaders? Leaders of men, who can help build an organization from the ground up on the football side.

“The next excuse was, ‘Well, we don’t like your staff.’ A lot of my staff is still coaching. Some guys are coordinators in the NFL now that have had a lot of success that were on my list.”

Goodwin then alluded to teams not taking the Rooney Rule seriously. Under the rule, which was adopted in 2002, every NFL team is required to interview at least one minority candidate for head-coaching and general manager positions.

The rule has been scrutinized in recent years, though, as some believe teams have made a mockery of it by bringing in candidates who aren’t deemed to have a legitimate chance at earning the job.

“I will give credit to two owners — [Buffalo Bills‘ Terry] Pegula and [Jacksonville Jaguars‘] Shad Khan. They were actually in the interview,” Goodwin said. “I can’t say that about the others. So, those were real interviews. I appreciated that opportunity.”

Goodwin said one roadblock he has faced has to do with being an offensive line coach; he said teams want a coach who can develop quarterbacks and has called plays.

It is something that Bowles, the Bucs’ new defensive coordinator, also said is an issue.

“You can say there’s a trend,” Bowles said. “Everybody wants the up-and-coming signal-caller. I think it’s more of an offensive mentality right now as far as the league, as far as the rules are going, what’s going against the defense as far as the plays that can be run, so everybody’s rushing to get the next offensive genius, so to speak.

“I don’t know if it’s a slap in the face, one way or the other. That’s just the way the league goes. It’ll switch back, and we’ll see who’s standing when those things switch back.”

Bowles also noted that NFL jobs are hard to come by no matter a candidate’s race.

“There are only 32 head jobs in the league,” Bowles said. “There [are] a lot of people who feel like they’re being discriminated against, and there [are] a lot of people that don’t get the chance, regardless of race. You just have to coach your hardest and do your best. If the opportunity comes up and you have a chance to grab it, you grab it. If not, you be the best coach you can be.”

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