The Lions’ African-American Coaches Were Stars of ‘Hard Knocks’ – And That Could Gain Them Bigger Opportunities

The Lions’ African-American Coaches Were Stars of ‘Hard Knocks’ – And That Could Gain Them Bigger Opportunities

The technical star of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” this season was supposed to be Detroit Lions boss Dan Campbell, he of equally great frame and personality. The deep voice. The unpredictable twists in his speeches. the will to do up-downs with the players.

The guy is unquestionably a unique force of personality that the producers must have hoped to somehow make a three-win team for a franchise with one playoff victory in 65 seasons worth watching.

And Campbell delivered his part as Must-See TV.

However, the coaching figures who are producing the most compelling stories come from Campbell’s team of assistants.

Namely Aaron Glenn, Duce Staley and Kelvin Sheppard, each of whom, like Campbell, is a former NFL player. They are also, unlike Campbell, African Americans.

And that, for the league, has to be welcome news.

Lions may have the most diverse coaching staff in a league that is so desperate for diversity that it has numerous rules, cumbersome protocols and even incentivized rewards programs to encourage hiring coaches and staff that reflect the racial-up brand of players.

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If all the fans care about that is not the problem. The NFL has, incredibly. It’s important for the league. The aim is to have candidates seen for the caliber of their ability, experience and potential and not ignored for not fitting into the historical vision of head coach.

Despite decades of trying, the NFL still struggles with this. And even those who prefer the best person get the job and don’t care what their favorite team looks like, as long as they get victories, would have to recognize that the current system has done a chronically poor job of identifying highly skilled non-skilled. white coaches.

Well, publicity often leads to promotion and “Hard Knocks” is making a coaching name – and potential career boost – for some Lions employees.

Detroit has 22 assistant coaches for the offensive, defensive and special teams. Eleven of them are African Americans. The front office is led by general manager Brad Holmes, who is also African-American, and has discovered some excellent last-round draft picks.

Assistant coach and running backs coach Duce Staley is one of the Detroit Lions' African-American assistant coaches to shine this season.

Assistant coach and running backs coach Duce Staley is one of the Detroit Lions’ African-American assistant coaches who shine this season of “Hard Knocks.” (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Campbell has put a premium on hiring former players as coaches, and in a league where most rosters are African-American, this is the natural result. Or should be.

It includes Glenn, 50, who spent 15 seasons in the league, most notably as a Pro Bowl defender with the New York Jets, serving as defensive coordinator.

There’s Staley, 47, a 10-year veteran injury rusher who is the Lions’ assistant coach and handles running backs.

Meanwhile, Sheppard, 34, spent eight seasons as a linebacker bouncing around the league and started coaching just last year when Campbell dropped him from the LSU support team.

Glenn has shown himself to be passionate (to say the least), organized and clearly not only respected but loved by his players. He draws attention through his professionalism and charisma.

The proof of your ability to become a head coach will be determined by how well your defense performs this season, as it should. But it’s impossible to see him work behind the scenes and not see someone who designs as more than capable of running his own team.

Staley is no different. A recurring story was Staley trying to train D’Andre Swift not just how to run, but to have the mindset necessary to run inside and maximize his skills. It’s a rare unrestricted look at pure coaching, ups and downs, both mental and strategic. If Swift shines this season, Staley’s coaching talents will be clear.

Then there’s the excellent play from rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, who was drafted in the sixth round. It features Sheppard teaching and encouraging Rodriguez, and a hard-hitting, powerful speech by Sheppard challenging his seniors to match the rookie’s intensity and warning them that one of them is about to miss their starting point.

There are more examples, of course, including the work of assistants like Mark Brunell and Hank Fraley, who are white. Race is not a focus on the show. Which is great.

In a perfect world none of that he must matter or he must stand out. In a perfect world, this isn’t even discussed.

NFL coaches must be great coaches, of course. This is a dog-bites-man thing. However, “Hard Knocks” is presenting impressive moments for decision makers in the league, particularly homeowners or those with the ear of ownership. And it’s coming in a much more organic — and therefore preferable — way than all the forced mock interviews or mid-round pick rewards.

Anyone watching “Hard Knocks” should be able to imagine Glenn or Staley as head coach, or Sheppard and others rising through the ranks. Again, appearances are not performances, but that’s how the world works. Looking at the part matters, even if it shouldn’t. The NFL signing proved that long ago.

For a league that has tried almost everything, maybe something new is coming from something old; “Hard Knocks” has been around since 2001.

Now the Lions just really need to win, of course.

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