Super Bowl LV thoughts: How many teams wish they'd waited to hire Todd Bowles and Byron Leftwich now?

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·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·7 min read
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Paying homage to a journalistic godfather with several thoughts after Super Bowl LV:

One idea that has gained some traction in recent weeks to try to correct the problem NFL owners clearly have with hiring Black head coaches is treating the head coach hiring cycle like the league does free agency, and make all teams wait to start interviews and hirings until the Tuesday after the Super Bowl.

Every year we seem to hear the excuse that Coordinator X wasn’t in a team’s final candidates because his current team was making a deep playoff run. That’s an easy excuse because while there are rules on when candidates can be interviewed, there are currently none on when they can be hired. It’s happened before that a coordinator coaching in the Super Bowl had an agreement in place to become a head coach elsewhere.

When a team wants a coach, they’ll do that.

If there were such a timeline in place now, this year’s hiring cycle might have looked different given what Todd Bowles in particular did with the Tampa Bay defense during Super Bowl LV and in the NFC title game, and Byron Leftwich, we’d hope, would at least have gotten some interviews.

But on Monday morning, NFL Media reporter Judy Battista tweeted that one franchise owner told her changing the coaching cycle to put all candidates on an even playing field in terms of timeline would be “unenforceable.”

And I am saying in no uncertain terms that that is bull[expletive].

The NFL has a start day for free agency, and rules in place to punish teams who blatantly ignore that rule or are thought to have tampered with a player under contract with another club. So why would a rule outlining similar for coaching hires be “unenforceable?”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles (pictured) and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich were brilliant in the Super Bowl, and perhaps torpedoed one of the NFL's worst coach hiring excuses. (Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers via AP)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles (pictured) and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich were brilliant in the Super Bowl, and perhaps torpedoed one of the NFL's worst coach hiring excuses. (Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers via AP)

Here’s why: because NFL owners don’t want to change it. They pay commissioner Roger Goodell and league VP Troy Vincent a lot of money to say they want the diversity in the highest ranks of coaching and front offices to increase and then be the ones mocked when it doesn’t. But never forget that Goodell and Vincent are not the ones making those hires.

More on that, and more thoughts coming out of Super Sunday ...

Had the opportunity to write a freelance piece on the failure of the Rooney Rule in its almost 20 years of existence for Arizona State’s Global Sport Matters publication that focused on Pep Hamilton and went live a few days ago.

By the metrics and data, Hamilton should have been the hot head coaching candidate last month: A former offensive play-caller for Andrew Luck with the Indianapolis Colts, it was the 46-year-old Hamilton who had a direct hand in getting Justin Herbert ready in a hurry to start for the Chargers after Tyrod Taylor’s freak medical accident. From 2016-2020, the 33 head coaches hired were an average of 45.9 years old, and 24 of the 33 are from the offensive side of the ball.

Instead and in spite of Herbert having the greatest statistical season ever for a rookie quarterback, Hamilton didn’t get a single call for an interview.

If you don’t know Hamilton and guessed that he’s Black, you’d be right. And it shows yet again how the goalposts are constantly moving when it comes to whom owners believe is head coaching material.

Retired cornerback Darius Butler, who saw Hamilton up close when both were with the Colts, said he believes a head coach is confident, can command the respect of a locker room, is the same person every day regardless of whether a team is on a four-game win streak or four-game losing streak, and is a direct communicator. He said he saw those qualities in Hamilton.

And for the record, none of those are Black or white qualities.

Give us a break, NFL. The league trotted out its quasi-inspirational “Inspire Change” PSA Sunday night, and had the audacity to show Black players kneeling during the national anthem and touting the $250 million they plan to spend to “fight systemic racism.” The erasure of Colin Kaepernick, whom the league forced out of its ranks five years ago rather than support his cause — to protest Black and brown citizens killed in the street by agents of the state for committing misdemeanors — was disgusting.

And while you were shamelessly showing a mural to late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, you should know that Lewis supported Kaepernick, too.

If you had told me a year ago that Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski would win Super Bowl LV as members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I’d have begged you to put down the hallucinogens.

Regardless of how you feel about Brady, it’s impossible not to be amazed by what he just achieved. After 20 seasons with the same franchise, he went to a new team, learned a new offensive system and teammates with no OTAs and limited training camp/preseason because of the pandemic, and he still led the Bucs to the Super Bowl and won. His seventh championship.

But no, that still doesn’t mean he’s the greatest athlete ever. Greatest player in the history of North America’s big four team sports? Given that he’s in a free agency era and someone like Bill Russell wasn’t? That’s an argument worth having.

Please stop comparing Patrick Mahomes to Brady. It’s patently unfair to Mahomes, who measured against any other NFL player is incredibly accomplished for a 25-year-old quarterback. At one point Sunday night, CBS analyst Tony Romo mentioned Mahomes just having to get to eight more Super Bowls to tie Brady in appearances.

Do you know how many quarterbacks in the history of the NFL have been to 10 Super Bowls? One. Do you know what the most-ever Super Bowl appearances for a quarterback not named Tom Brady is? Five.

Mahomes is amazing, and based on what we’ve seen so far, it won’t be surprising if he goes on to win a couple more rings. But for one thing, people probably thought the same thing about Dan Marino once upon a time. And for the other, getting to and winning Super Bowls is damn hard.

The first Super Bowl that featured a Black head coach on both sidelines was 14 years ago. There hasn’t been a second such Super Bowl.

One of the biggest nights of Leftwich’s life and he couldn’t even get basic respect. At the start of his postgame Zoom media availability, the NFL PR person moderating called him “Brian,” not Byron. Leftwich corrected him and there was no apology.

Then the first reporter to ask a question asked about the defense, apparently thinking that Leftwich was Bowles.

Leftwich stared off to the side as he processed he’s being asked what his game plan was for slowing down Mahomes, then laughs and says “I had nothing to do with that; that was Todd!” Again, no apology.

It was inexcusable for the league’s own PR employee to get Leftwich’s name wrong, and it was poor form by the reporter to be clueless about who he was talking to. It’s easy to say it’s no big deal if you’ve never felt marginalized, but both were a reminder of the historical disrespect shown to Black Americans and that old “they all look alike” trope used in racial profiling instances.

The 48 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee have a tough job, but former Patriots and Raiders defensive end/tackle Richard Seymour belongs in the Hall. A three-time first-team All-Pro, member of the All-Decade team for the 2000s, seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl winner, he should have been voted in by now.

Next year, voters, next year. Let’s not make him wait any longer.

Super Bowl LV from Yahoo Sports: