Someone once said that the sports page is a newspaper’s toy department. I confess, though, that until I started writing for Power Line, my perusal of the Washiington Post was confined to the toy department and, at the other extreme, the columns of Charles Krauthammer and George Will. In any event, Michael Wilbon of the Post fails to add gravitas to his paper’s sports page in this attempt to prove the existence of a “color line” in NFL coaching circles. Wilbon is upset that the San Francisco 49ers hired a white head coach, Dennis Erickson, instead of a black, Dennis Green. Wilbon correctly observes that Green has had more success as a head coach than Erickson. But the issue is not whether the 49ers made a wise choice, but whether they based their decision on race. It seems obvious to me that they did not. Recall that the the team’s head coaching vacancy arose only because it fired one of the best young coaches in the game, Steve Mariucci, essentially because of his strong personality. Our Minnesota readers can probably confirm that Dennis Green is no shrinking violet either. Thus, viewed in the context of the Mariucci firing, there is no reason to conclude that the decision to hire Erickson instead of Green had anything to do with race. In all likelihood, the 49ers just wanted a more pliable head coach.
Wilbon compounds his lack of seriousness by complaining again about the Detroit Lions’ decision to hire Mariucci without following NFL rules concerning interviewing black candidates. He points out (as if this lends credibility to his case) that the Detroit City Council has passed a resolution condemning the Lions for not following this process. However, as noted in an earlier blog, the Lions offered to interview black candidates, but these individuals declined the invitation because they knew Detroit wanted to select Mariucci (who was far more qualified). In fact, the Lions had only fired their former head coach because Mariucci became available. Moreover, even though the 49ers followed the NFL rules and interviewed black candidates, this does not seem to satisfy Wilbon either because, allegedly, this was just a “dog and pony” show.
Near the end of the article, Wilbon, assuming his role as arbiter of men’s hearts, assures us that Matt Millen, the Lions’ general manager, is not a bigot. If that is the case, then there should be no controversy over his selection of Mariucci. The issue in these matters should always be whether discrimination occurred, not whether a process has been followed (especially when, as here, the party in the dock tried to follow it).
Ultimately, Wilbon’s only factully valid charge is that those who award head coaching jobs are reaching tentative conclusions early on about the person they want to hire. But this is an entirely normal and reasonable way to proceed. Wilbon’s analysis is symptomatic of a post-modern civil rights movement that seeks to control thought processes having nothing directly to do with race.
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