Problems with NFL’s hiring practices aren’t limited to diversity

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Earlier this week, the NFL said they are disappointed with the “lack of diversity” that has plagued the hiring of 15 key positions  (coaches and General Managers) since December 30, the conclusion of the regular season.

In a sport dominated by minorities on the field, the NFL definitely doesn’t want to look like their franchies aren’t equal-opportunity employers in capacities greater than playing the game itself. While the NFL is worrying about skin color, they’re ignoring a potential disaster when it comes to their biggest revenue generating-game of the season.

Before Ravens head coach John Harbaugh walked off the stage during his press conference, he announced the team had made two personnel moves. They removed the “interim” tag from Jim Caldwell’s offensive coordinator title ,and hired former Eagles defensive coordinator/offensive line coach Juan Castillo to be the run-game coordinator.

Based on the way the offense is playing, Caldwell’s promotion isn’t a surprise; however, Castillo’s hire less than two weeks prior to the Super Bowl is enough to raise a few eyebrows.

Hiring a coach late into the season is nothing new. Just last week, New England hired former Kansas City offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Daboll was the Chiefs’ OC this season, including when they played the Ravens in Week 5.

Last year, Josh McDaniels was hired as an offensive assistant by the Patriots after being terminated as the head coach of the Rams. At the time, offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien had accepted the head coaching position at Penn State and would leave the Patriots following the Super Bowl. McDaniels’ hire made perfect sense to replace O’Brien, but it also gave the Patriots leverage.

Earlier in the 2011 season, McDaniels’ Rams team had played the AFC North (including the Ravens) – as had the Patriots.

What the Patriots did with McDaniels and the Ravens are subsequently now doing with Castillo doesn’t violate any NFL rules, but at some point, it’ll cause an unfair advantage on the NFL’s biggest stage.

The fact that Harbaugh would hire Castillo shouldn’t come as a surprise given their coaching history in Philadelphia with the Eagles organization. Unlike McDaniels a season prior, Castillo hasn’t had to prepare for his new team’s Super Bowl opponents. Castillo hasn’t faced the 49er’s since Week 4 in 2011 – eight weeks prior to the Harbaugh brothers’ first meeting on Thanksgiving that season.

Players available via free agency that late in the season aren’t going to make a huge impact on the game but a coach could give plenty of information. NFL rules state that a playoff team may make a maximum of four free-agent signings during the playoffs. Teams are allowed to sign others from NFL practice squads around the league and teams aren’t allowed to sign more than two players during each week.

Even though it’s unlikely to happen, the NFL has allowed the door to be open for coaches like Cam Cameron to accept a job in San Francisco. Cameron had spent 4.5 years with the Ravens before being fired mid-season and has a ton of knowledge of the inner working of a Super Bowl team. And he is out there, “roaming the streets,” ready to be hired by San Francisco, should they choose to do so.

If Cameron accepted a job in San Francsico now, it would be a shot to his credibility and long coaching career because his involvement would be evident. Cameron doesn’t want to commit career suicide if his tenure didn’t work out in San Francisco but at the same time, the NFL has left the door open for such a thing to happen.

Heck, some have suggested that the Ravens hire San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s former college coach to help him prepare for his “pistol” offense this week.

Now, I’m all for anything that helps the Ravens but, objectively, is that really a fair thing to do?

We’ll welcome Castillo into Baltimore and he will be an extra set of experienced eyes to go over the game planning against the 49ers.  The move is smart for Harbaugh to do whatever he can to gain the upper hand, but hopefully this is the last time this is brought up.

The integrity of the Super Bowl is more important than making sure a minority is offered a job interview just to be told “no” anyway. The NFL should have their priorities straight and if they weren’t thinking about a lack of a rule for hiring coaches late into the season before, they should now.

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About Kris Jones

Kris Jones
Kris - or "Goob" as he's widely known - has turned an obsession into a career. As a media member by day and super fan by night, he reports from the Under Armour Performance Center twice per week and brings Ravens news from a fan's perspective. His popular YouTube series...more

7 Raves on “Problems with NFL’s hiring practices aren’t limited to diversity

  1. Joe on said:

    I think it has to be on a case by case basis…As you pointed out, hiring Castillo gives us no real edge in preparation. He’s not a coach who knows the opponent or has a ton of SB experience. While I’m sure he is helping this year, his hire is more setup for next year. If you deny the Ravens the chance to hire him until after the Super Bowl, it puts Castillo in a tough spot as other teams are finalizing their staffs. If he gets an offer from, say, the Raiders…he’d want to be here more as a better winning team, but can he afford to jeopardize employment by turning them down, only to have the Ravens end up never giving him a job? Before the Broncos game, some people still weren’t sold on Caldwell and thus wanted us to be kicking the tires on some of the hot offensive minds available to be coordinators, even while we were in the playoffs. Why? Because teams like Cleveland, Philly, KC, etc could all make their moves NOW, and if we waited, no one good would be left.

    I guess you could focus on the consulting angle, and just say that the SB coaches are not allowed to speak to anyone outside their own staffs about game plans. But can you REALLY enforce that? Honestly, if the Ravens were worried about Cam Cameron giving information to the 49ers…why not just reach out to him and say “We want you to come back as a consultant”. There’s already been discussion about “Does Cam get a ring if we win?” and that move would clear that air.

    • John on said:

      Goob’s right – it’s unfair. In your scenario, the NFL could allow the Ravens to hire Castillo, but just not let him start until after their season ended. Problem solved.

      And yes – Cam gets a ring. To deny him that would be ridiculous, and goes against the Ravens way.

  2. Big C on said:

    I agree w SC Raven Fan… Juan Castillo is a well thought off offensive line coach from his days with the Eagles (which makes it weird he was ever def coordinator) If you’re going to hire him after the Super Bowl, may as well do it now before someone wised up and gave him a job. Offensive line coaches usually are the defacto run-game coordinators since they have the best idea of what their guys can do. He’s not going to add much, just maybe some ideas about how he would attack the 49er’s front. He doesn’t know the playbook so it’s not like he would be able to add much detail. At this point just a fresh set of eyes is all… But our O-line is better with him….

  3. Stevan Ridley on said:

    Kris Jones, You’re overblowing the impact of hiring a coach so late. Players move from team to team all of the time, and eventually play their former teams. There’s only so much info they can give to their current teams, most of which won’t work b/c those teams put in new schemes, new playcalling jargon to especially combat playing vs former teammates. The racial makeup of those in charge in the NFL, namely head coaches, and it’s impact, is much more important than what you want to believe. Kind of insensitive to think otherwise.

    • Kris JonesKris Jones on said:

      Mr. Ridley, you’re clearly still concussed after that hit Bernard Pollard laid on you from Sunday. I don’t blame you, the lights went out before you even touched the ground.

      You mean to tell me that Cam Cameron getting hired by the 49ers wouldn’t help them game plan for the Ravens. I know he may have not been able to know how to run his own offense he installed but he knows a lot of quirks and more about the players than anyone else walking the street at this very moment.

      The bottom line is that having Cameron or any other coach in the future in his situation able to be hired by a team in the same season during the playoffs is bad for the game. It’s unlikely to happen but the league needs to make sure it doesn’t happen at all.

      Thanks for reading but please go back to the doctor.

      • Law Yerr on said:

        I’d be surprised if no-compete or severance clauses aren’t in coaches’ contracts. Most every other business does it. A McDaniels could probably get it scrubbed from his contract, but someone like Cam (wasn’t he signed to a one-year extension?) not so much.

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