African-Americans hold key NFL coaching, quarterback positions

Fred Jeter | 9/9/2016, 6:21 p.m.
The NFL season opens this weekend with five African-American head coaches and likely six African-American starting quarterbacks representing the 32 ...

The NFL season opens this weekend with five African-American head coaches and likely six African-American starting quarterbacks representing the 32 teams.

The number of African-American coaches remains the same as in 2015.

While Coach Lovie Smith was fired in January by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after two seasons (8-24 record; replaced by Dirk Koetter), Coach Hue Jackson was hired by the Cleveland Browns in January.

Coach Jackson previously coached the Oakland Raiders to an 8-8 record in 2011.

Four returning African-American coaches this season are Marvin Lewis with the Cincinnati Bengals, Mike Tomlin with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jim Caldwell with the Detroit Lions and Todd Bowles with the New York Jets.

Coach Lewis, the dean of African-American NFL coaches, has an 112-92-2 regular season record with the Bengals since 2003.

Coach Tomlin, an alumnus of the College of William & Mary, is 92-52 with the Steelers since 2007.

Coach Caldwell is 18-14 in two seasons with the Lions, and he was 26-22 from 2009 to 2011 with the Indianapolis Colts.

Coach Bowles was 10-6 with the Jets in his first season a year ago. 

There were no African-American head coaches in the NFL until 1989, when Coach Art Shell was hired by Los Angeles (now Oakland) Raiders. 

A high-profile addition to the list of African-American quarterbacks in the NFL is Dak Prescott, the Dallas Cowboys rookie who has, at least temporarily, replaced injured Tony Romo.

Prescott was the Cowboys fourth round draft pick out of Mississippi State University.

Other likely African-American starters at the most important position are Tyrod Taylor of the Buffalo Bills, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Robert Griffin III of the Cleveland Browns.

Hampton native Taylor is a Virginia Tech alumnus. Wilson is a native Richmonder who played for Collegiate School and starred at North Carolina State University and the University of Wisconsin before joining the Seahawks.

Griffin, a former starting quarterback with Washington, is back in the saddle with the Browns after not playing last season in D.C.

Teddy Bridgewater was a clear starter with the Minnesota Vikings before suffering a season-ending injury.

For the time being, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers appears to have lost the No. 1 quarterback slot to Blaine Gabbert. Kaepernick was the 49ers’ starter from 2013 to 2015.

Geno Smith, a former starter for the New York Jets, is now listed behind Ryan Fitzpatrick. Smith missed most of last season with an injury.

In Buffalo, the first three quarterbacks on the Bills’ depth chart — Taylor, E.J. Manuel and rookie Cardale Jones — are all African-American.

This marks the third time in NFL history that a team has had three black quarterbacks.

In happened in 2004 in Seattle with Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson and Terrelle Pryon, and in 2005 with the Jacksonville Jaguars with Byron Leftwich, David Garrard and Quinn Gray.

The NFL’s first African-American starting quarterback was Marlin Briscoe of the Denver Broncos in 1968.