Todd Bowles’ Tampa Bay Buccaneers will visit Mike Tomlin’s Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday, creating a rare matchup between two Black NFL head coaches. Bowles, however, is encouraging the media not to view the matchup that way.
During his weekly press conference, Bowles was asked about the upcoming game against Tomlin considering they’re two of just four Black head coaches in the league. Without hesitation, Bowles downplayed any added attention their meeting might garner.
“I have a very good relationship with Tomlin,” Bowles said. “We don’t look at what color we are when we coach against each other. We just know each other. I have a lot of very good white friends that coach in this league as well, and I don’t think it’s a big deal as far as us coaching against each other. It’s normal. Wilks got an opportunity to do a good job; hopefully he does it. And we coach ball. We don’t look at color.”
Todd Bowles on coaching against Mike Tomlin this Sunday: "I don't think it's a big deal…we don't look at color."
Bowles on representation in coaching: "I think the minute you guys stop making a big deal about it, everybody else will as well."
*Questions included for context pic.twitter.com/JtehXqqKcW
— David Schiele WTSP (@Deacon_Schiele) October 12, 2022
Along with Bowles and Tomlin, Lovie Smith of the Houston Texans and Steve Wilks of the Carolina Panthers complete the list of Black head coaches in the NFL. Wilks will be coaching his first game for the Panthers this week after they recently fired Matt Rhule. In addition to those four, the NFL has three other minority head coaches, Mike McDaniel of the Miami Dolphins, who is biracial, Robert Saleh of the New York Jets, whose parents were Lebanese immigrants, and the Washington Commanders’ Ron Rivera, who is Latino.
After Bowles acknowledged he doesn’t look at color, he was asked a follow-up question about the need for representation and what it means for aspiring minority coaches to see “you guys” on the field as NFL head coaches who “looks like them” and possibly “grew up like them.”
“Well, when you say ‘you guys’ and ‘look like them’ and ‘grow up like them,’ that means that we’re oddballs to begin with,” Bowles responded. “I think the minute you guys stop making a big deal about it, everybody else will as well.”
Although it came across as downplaying the impact that he and Tomlin can have on progressing the NFL, Bowles’ opinion should be respected. He is the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and if he loses games he will be fired. Spending time celebrating the fact that the NFL has two Black head coaches matched up against each other this week isn’t productive to his job, nor is it really productive to getting minority head coaches hired in the future. It’s been more than 16 years since Smith and Tony Dungy coached against each other in the Super Bowl. And 16 years later the NFL still has the same issue of racial equality within its coaching and executive ranks.
The media makes a big deal about Tomlin and Bowles coaching against each other because it’s a reminder of how rare the occurrence is. The media makes a big deal about the lack of minority head coaches in the NFL because numbers don’t lie and the statistics are jarring. Approximately 70 percent of the league’s players are Black, yet less than 10 percent of its head coaches are Black. And a recent USA Today report dove into how only 27 percent of coaches at the coordinator level or above are non-white.
Earlier this year, Bowles similarly downplayed being a Black head coach. But downplaying being a Black head coach doesn’t mean Bowles ignores the need to help other minority coaches into and through the league’s pipelines.
“I know what color I am. I wake up every day. It’s funny because I wasn’t a Black defensive back coach. I wasn’t a Black coordinator. But now I’m a Black head coach,” Bowles said after he was named the Buccaneers’ head coach earlier this year. “So the responsibility there is to do the right thing, be the right person, not to go out and say, ‘I’m Superman, here I am, look at what I’m doing.’ It’s to lead. And always have your hand out to pull somebody up. If that helps them be successful, I’ll try my damnedest.”
Bowles doesn’t need to stand at his press conferences and celebrate a matchup with Tomlin to help the NFL’s lack of outreach. Similarly, the media shouldn’t need Bowles to celebrate a matchup with Tomlin to continue advocating for diversity.
[Deacon Schiele on Twitter]