I Have Seen the Promised Land: Black NFL Head Coaches

To borrow a phrase from one of the world’s greatest proponents of equality, the late, great, Dr. Martin Luther King, I must say, that when it comes to an African-American head coach finally leading his team to a Super Bowl victory, “I have seen the promised land.”

The 2005 season was an eye-opening journey for the NFL’s six black head coaches that I believe will ultimately culminate in a Super Bowl title for at least one of them within the next five seasons – and possibly sooner.

When the occasion does finally occur, the feat will be recognized and remembered in the same fashion that encompassed former Washington Redskins Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Doug Williams, who was the first and only black quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory and remains an icon for African-Americans everywhere because of that victory in Super Bowl XXII 18 years ago.

At any rate, I have decided to examine each of the seven current African-American head coaches and their respective chances for winning a Super Bowl title within the next five seasons – or sooner.

Tony Dungy 6:1
Dungy has compiled a 102-58 record in 10 seasons as a head coach, which suggests the man obviously knows what he’s doing. In four seasons as the head coach of the Indianaplis Colts, Dungy has gone 48-16 during the regular season.
However, winning regular season games has never been Dungy’s problem. The defensive genius has only compiled a record of 5-8 in the playoffs and has failed to reach the Super Bowl with several talented teams including this year’s golden opportunity when they didn’t have to face their annual arch enemy, the New England Patriots.

Still – as long as the Colts have Peyton Manning at the helm, they should at the very least, be an annual contender. Depending on what Indianapolis does this offseason with several key free agents (WR Reggie Wayne, RB Edgerrin James) then the Colts could either make another strong Super Bowl run or fade back into the pack of mediocrity.
My guess is that the Colts will somehow give Manning enough offensive support to once again be a major player in the race for AFC supremacy.

Marvin Lewis 6:1
First of all, let me say that it is a travesty that it took so long for Marvin Lewis to land a head coaching job in the NFL. The man has proven himself to be one of the greatest defensive minds of any era.

Lewis has taken over a Cincinnati Bengals franchise and turned it into one of the most promising teams in the league. After going 8-8 in his first two seasons, which was a feat in itself, Lewis guided the Bengals to an 11-5 record and the AFC North division crown. Had quarterback, Carson Palmer not gone down early in the Bengals opening playoff game, who knows how far they could have gone.

The Bengals who have tons of young, talented players who are only gong to get better with each passing game, could be a real threat to win a Super Bowl in the next five seasons. As a matter of fact, I’m going to go out on an extremely long limb and say that is exactly what is going to happen.

Barring a career-ending injury by Palmer, I think Lewis is building this team up to be a better version of the Baltimore Ravens team whose defense he led to an incredible record-setting season on the way to their first Super Bowl title in their history 2000.

At this point, I think Lewis’ odds of winning a Super Bowl title ar, at the very least, equal to Dungy’s.

Lovie Smith 12:1
I knew that Smith was an accomplished defensive coordinator before he landed the Chicago Bears head coaching position in 2004.

Smith has a combined record of 16-16 in his two seasons in Chicago, but the turnaround from 5-111 to 11-5 has been nothing short of amazing.

However, I don’t think the Bears’ success this season was by any stretch of the imagination, a fluke. Smith has built an impressive defense in Chicago and the Bears should be more confident and more well-rounded this season if Smith can get quarterback Rex Grossman a little more help.

If Smith keeps the Bears on the course that he had them on in 2005, then there is no telling how far the Bears could go in the mediocre NFC. At the very least, it looks like they will be perennial contenders for their division crown.

Herman Edwards 32:1
Although Edwards has compiled only a 39-41 record as the head coach of the New York Jets, he has shown himself to be an outstanding coach – at least up until the time of Chad Pennington’s annual season-ending injury.

Edwards inherits one of the best offensive teams in the league in the Kansas City Chiefs. However, former offensive coordinator, Al Saunders is now calling the plays in Washington, so Edwards could be in for a bit of a rude awakening.
If Edwards finally gets the Chiefs some defensive help and maintains the team’s offensive excellence, then there is no reason to think that the Chiefs won’t be perennial playoff participants.

Regardless of the question marks, which, to be honest about it, almost every team in the league has, Edwards should have this team at or near the top of the AFC inside of three years, tops. If he doesn’t do it by then, Edwards can kiss his opportunity, with this aging team, goodbye.

Romeo Crennel 32:1
After serving in several coaching capacities for over three decades, Crennel finally got a chance to lead his own team when the Cleveland Brown gave the longtime veteran a shot last season.

After guiding the Browns to a respectable 6-10 finish in his first season, Crennel will try to get thr Browns to .500 this season and possibly further in 2007. Expecting anything before then would be unreasonable and nearly unfathomable.
Crennel however, has proven that he is a winner and only needs time to right a Brwons ship that has been waaaay off course for years now.

Art Shell 32:1
In six seasons as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Shell compiled a record of 54-38 and took the Raiders to the playoffs on three separate occasions, advancing to the AFC championship game on one occasion.

Unfortunately all that got Shell was the cold shoulder from every team in the league since that time. Now that Oakland owner Al Davis has seen the light and decided to give Shell another opportunity, I think Shell could turn this team around in a couple of seasons.

In the new age NFL, a pretender can turn into a contender overnight with the right transactions. For sustained excellence, the obvious route to go is the draft, but in a win-now NFL, Shell may look to get rich quick in a season or two tops. He will however, have his work cut out for him in the strong AFC.

Dennis Green 64:1
Before Tony Dungy’s recent rise the upper echelon of the coaching profession, Dennis Green was universally recognized as the best African-American coach in professional football.

However, Green, like Dungy, has failed miserably when it comes to postseason success. Green’s 108-83 regular season record, which would be even more impressive had he not gone 11-21 the last two seasons, is pretty decent until you look at his 4-8 career mark in postseason play.

Green, who is one of the best offensive minds in all of football, can still coach. The question is, ‘Can he gather enough talent in Arizona to get out of the cellar he’s been dwelling in the last two years.

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