David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Will the NFL have a female head coach in the next decade? Will Nick Bosa get dinged in the 2019 NFL draft for voicing his political views? Will NFL teams be forced to stop lying on their injury reports? Answers to those questions and more in this week’s 10-Point Stance.
1. The NFL’s glass ceiling
It’s been striking to hear the ease with which most people talk about Becky Hammon becoming an NBA head coach.
In many ways, it’s typical for the NBA, which has become a progressive force. Most NBA players and coaches can talk openly about politics and race without fear of repercussions. The league is a hotbed of activism and intelligent discussion on important topics.
That is a good thing. A great thing.
It seems to be a foregone conclusion that Hammon, who currently serves as an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs, eventually will be hired as a head coach. Some in the NBA, including Spurs big man Pau Gasol, are openly campaigning on her behalf.
All of this brings the question: Is there any chance of the same happening in the NFL someday soon?
The answer: Hell no. Not even close.
The first reason I say this is a simple one: The NFL doesn’t respect women. The league has historically seen women as objects rather than equals. In this way, the NFL hasn’t been so different from the rest of American society. Teams have defended players accused of domestic violence against women, and they have treated their female employees like dirt.
The second reason I say this is more nuanced. Beyond teams’ unwillingness to hire a woman as a head coach, there’s the question of who they would hire.
Amy Trask, the first female team CEO in NFL history and now the chairman of the BIG3 basketball league, gave a typically brilliant response when I asked her about this issue.
“At the present time, there is (at least in my view) no woman who is qualified to be an NFL head coach,” she said. “The NBA afforded Becky Hammon and Nancy Lieberman the opportunity to garner experience such that they are qualified head coaching candidates.”
This is an important and fair thing to consider. Hammon is one of the best players in WNBA history, and she has spent the past four years as a high-level assistant under legendary Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
Lieberman is a Hall of Famer who serves as a head coach in the BIG3 and has been an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings. When BIG3 players on the team she’d eventually coach (named Power) learned Lieberman was being considered, no players had an issue with it, Trask recalled.
You don’t have to be a former player to be a great coach—Bill Belichick never played professional football—but it doesn’t hurt, especially if your candidacy is nontraditional in other ways.
The main point is that Hammon and Lieberman are extensively qualified to hold head coaching positions. No woman in football right now has a similar background.
Of course, the only way someone can get that background is to be put in the position to gain experience at lower levels first. Much has been written on women getting such opportunities in the NFL, and in 2016, Kathryn Smith became the first full-time female assistant in league history as the Bills’ special teams quality control coach. However, that was short-lived.
Bill Wippert/Associated Press
We are still a long way from a female head coach in the NFL, maybe decades. I’m not sure whether I’ll see a Becky Hammon in the NFL in my lifetime, and I have a nice 30 years left (I think…I hope…maybe longer if I’m able to enter the Matrix).
“Will an NFL team, or teams, ultimately consider hiring as a head coach a woman who has garnered such experience as an assistant in the league, or in college?” Trask said. “I don’t know. While it is hard for me to imagine that will happen soon, I suppose it may have been hard for many to imagine that a woman would have taken a seat at an NFL owners’ meeting in the mid-1980s [as Trask did]. My reason for noting that is this: What is hard to imagine may ultimately happen.
“But I don’t believe it will happen any time soon.”
2. Teams most likely to hire a female head coach
One counterargument to my first reason above might be that not all teams are equally disrespectful to women. The leaguewide perspective isn’t the perspective from every city.
If it was going to happen anywhere, where would it be?
Five teams (not in any order) stand out as more likely than the rest to hire a female coach: the Eagles (one of the most progressive teams in the NFL), the Raiders (some of Al Davis‘ legacy of hiring without regard to gender or race still remains), the 49ers (located in a liberal part of the nation that would welcome it), the Cardinals (Jen Welter interned as a Cardinals assistant coach) and the Bills (they already hired Smith as an assistant).
One wild-card pick is the Patriots. I think one day, not too far in the future, Belichick will assume a true general manager role with the team, and I think he’d hire a woman in a heartbeat if she was the best candidate.
3. The opinionated future No. 1 pick
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Many people in the NFL believe Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa will be the top pick in the 2019 NFL draft. One scout told me he believes Bosa, the brother of Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, will be one of the best players to enter the league in the past 10 years.
Not defensive ends or defensive players, but players period. He’s that good.
However, Bosa’s outspokenness over his political and social views bears watching as his Ohio State career continues and possible NFL future begins.
Check out Bosa’s Twitter feed, and it’s obvious that he’s a huge Donald Trump supporter and Barack Obama critic.
To be clear, regardless of whether you agree with his political stances, strong opinions are a good thing (yes, even if it means someone trashing Black Panther or Beyonce). Athletes should speak their minds on social and political issues. We need more players like Bosa.
That’s my opinion. But it isn’t one that NFL teams and some fans have shared in recent years.
If Bosa continues to be outspoken politically (and I hope he will), what will the “shut up and dribble” crowd say? Will his tweets become an issue to NFL teams? Will the NFL hold his outspokenness against him?
4. NFL is preparing for CBA war
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The NFL’s current collective bargaining agreement—which is essentially the agreement that maintains labor peace—doesn’t expire until after the 2020 season. That doesn’t mean both sides aren’t preparing for CBA battle, though. They certainly are.
One source with knowledge of the situation told me this: Teams are quietly starting to prepare (though not as quietly as they think) for a possible work stoppage, and the league office is quietly asking teams, owners and others that took point in the last lockout (though not as quietly as it thinks) about how things were handled then.
The idea is that by looking back, the NFL can prepare for what’s to come.
And the league is definitely preparing.
5. Pot and the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’
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If you don’t know who Christian Okoye is, you should. He was one of the most devastating runners the NFL has ever seen.
He was about 6’1″ and weighed around 260 pounds. He trucked dudes. Some players were genuinely afraid to tackle him.
Those years of brutality took their toll. To deal with the pain, he began using marijuana.
“I think it’s a way for players to help themselves be pain-free,” he recently told TMZ.
This is a common refrain I hear from former players. They say marijuana ends the pain and discomfort caused by football.
It’s a story we’ve heard before, and it’s one we’ll hear again.
6. Bruce Irvin’s amazing story
Tony Avelar/Associated Press
Over the past six years, we’ve gotten to watch a truly remarkable journey with Bruce Irvin. He’s gone from a player teams had character concerns about in his draft year (2012) to winning a Super Bowl with the Seahawks. On Saturday, he received his degree in sociology from West Virginia University.
Now with the Raiders, Irvin recently spoke about his son on the team’s website. It struck me how a person can change their life and those around them for the better through football.
“It’s great that he’ll never have to go through the stuff that I had to go through,” Irvin said. “Being homeless, being broke, from robbing people to just trying to survive, man, it’s great to see that he’ll never have to do that. He can always tell people, ‘My dad was not only an NFL player, but he also graduated from college.’ Leading by example and having him there to see it, those are memories that last forever.”
7. Size is irrelevant
Then, a cool thing happened. Hall of Famer Kurt Warner saw the tweet—and responded.
Kurt Warner @kurt13warner
@QuarterbackDad7 @DraftDiamonds @NFLNoHuddle @RossTuckerNFL @Elite11 @YogiRoth @JwPalms @Stumpf_Brian @AllbrightNFL @NFL @mikefreemanNFL I was always listed at 6’2, but never hit 6’2 in my life… 6’1 1/2! We only know what we know & obviously at my height I didn’t have many issues seeing field! So at what point does it become an issue? It’s seems the analyst have decided… but what exactly is that height?
Great question, and the answer isn’t clear. The answer might be that it doesn’t matter. All that matters is ability.
8. How the Falcons will use Calvin Ridley
John Bazemore/Associated Press
Calvin Ridley could end up being one of the steals of the 2018 draft, and the reason why was on display at Falcons minicamp last week.
Perhaps previewing how they intend to use their first-round pick, the Falcons had him moving all over the field, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He “saw action returning kickoffs and punts, and on offense, he played both in the slot and on the outside.”
However they use him, Ridley will be paired with Julio Jones, one of the top three receivers in the sport. That also won’t hurt. As Jones faces his constant double-teams, Ridley could help ease the pressure while creating his own path.
9. Permission to gamble
Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that opens the door for states to legalize sports gambling has numerous ramifications. One that should be watched closely is the NFL’s injury reports.
They are already valuable and controversial. Valuable because they give an idea (kinda, sorta) of who is hurt, thus putting everything on the table, and preventing corruption (kinda, sorta). Controversial because teams lie extensively about injuries.
So if, say, Tom Brady has a busted thumb, putting it on the injury report would prevent some gamblers from having an unfair advantage over others because of inside information—because theoretically, everyone has the same information. Except if, say, the Patriots don’t list Brady’s injury to try to gain an in-game advantage of their own, it negates that leveled playing field.
Legalized gambling is going to pump more money—a lot more—into this equation. It will put pressure on the league and teams to be more honest about injuries. But will they be?
If not, legalized gambling will just make a flawed system even more noticeable.
10. The great Chuck Knox
Bernstein Associates/Getty Images
Former Rams, Bills and Seahawks head coach Chuck Knox died over the weekend. Some people won’t fully remember how good of a coach he was.
That shouldn’t be the case.
Knox wasn’t the greatest big-game coach. His teams would dominate regular seasons and then falter in the playoffs.
However, few coaches were better at establishing their blueprint on a franchise and making their team win games through sheer will. He took over teams when they were at their low point and transformed them into success stories.
He won at least 10 games in all five seasons with the Rams. He took the Bills to the postseason, and then the Seahawks.
Knox used the running game the way teams now use the passing game. He overwhelmed opponents with it. He turned running the football into an art form.
Knox was an important part of NFL history, and the sport will miss him.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.