Is there a correlation between black head coaches and white running backs?

Jan 28, 2012
The following is something I personally wrote for family and friends on social
media. Just thought I'd shared it with the group:



By: The Sapient

A running back is an offensive player who plays by receiving handoffs from the quarterback and runs with the ball in a rushing play; they can also catch and block opposing players. It's a position that requires speed, balance, agility, and toughness. Throughout the history of the NFL, there have been hundreds of running backs of both black and white American descent that have had truly remarkable and noteworthy careers, but from the 1990s to the late 2000s, the notion of sighting a white running back basically became as rare as sighting a black rhinoceros.

Several sports writers have pondered why there are relatively few white running backs in the NFL. In the late 1970s/early 1980s, a white running back like John Riggins dominated the position. In the 1985 season, white running back Craig James was the lead runner on the Super Bowl runner ups New England Patriots. Prior to the 1980s, white running back legends such as Red Grange, Frank Gifford, Jim Taylor, Larry Csonka were all men amongst boys with the way they carried the ball. So what occurred between the late 1980s to late 2000s? Why the gap?

To find out, you really have to dig into current events at that time, and really look into how the NFL became an affirmative action league but still held racial biased beliefs against blacks for certain cerebral football positions. You see back in the day, racial discrimination and exclusionist Jim Crow policies helped usher in "position profiling" in both the NFL and college football. For a long period of time, blacks were stereotyped as being intellectually incapable of playing and coaching certain positions, namely any head coaching position, the quarterback position, the center position, and sometimes even the middle linebacker position. One position where black Americans were always welcomed were the running back, wide receiver, and cornerback positions.

Throughout the 1980s, a black quarterback like Warren Moon went un-drafted and had to prove his talents in the Canadian Football League first because there was this myth that you can't win with a black quarterback.

Over the next 2 decades, changes such as the Rooney rule were implemented to promote diversity. More scouts, coaches, and fans became racially aware of this bias, and black quarterbacks are now rarely overlooked at the college and pro level.

Move forward to the year 2010 when Toby Gerhart, a college white running back with ideal height, size, and athleticism for the position, lead the nation in rushing yards, tested very well at the combine (ran a 4.5 40 yard dash on a slow track), and was still considered by NFL scouts a liability in the draft because of his race. A NFL scout suggested that if Toby Gerhart was black, he would have gone in the first round guaranteed.

A little prior to the year 2010, white running back Danny Woodhead set several NCAA college football rushing records, including single season and all-time rushing. Danny Woodhead has elite athleticism, on his college pro day, he ran one of the fastest 40 yard dashes in 4.33 seconds, he posted the best pro-agility time of 4.03 seconds, he posted a vertical jump of 38 1/2 inches, and he posted the best 60 yard shuttle time in 11.2 seconds. In addition, he also bench pressed 225 pounds 20 times. But somehow, someway, he did not receive an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine and he was not even drafted by one single NFL team.

What about white running back Zach Zenner going un-drafted after he rushed for at least 2,000 yards in 2012, 2013, and 2014 while at South Dakota State which was the only FCS school to offer him a scholarship?

What about current college white running back sensation Christian McCaffrey who broke a Barry Sanders NCAA record for most all-purpose yards in a season with 3,864 yards, but he still was not considered good enough to win the Heisman Trophy after an all time season?

What about white running backs such as Peyton Hillis, Rex Burkhead, Brian Leonard that had stellar careers at the college level and tested well athletically, but were only given limited opportunities at the pro level until their counterparts ahead of them in the depth chart became injured?

What about white running back Brandon Wegher who broke the NAIA national rushing record, but it's only good enough to be considered a NFL practice squad player?

The trickle effect of these policies have impacted the NFL from a diversity perspective, but one thing that remains to be unseen is the numbers of black head coaches or let alone black coordinators. From 2012-2016, teams have taken a chance on 21 first time white head coaches and only one on first time black head coach, Todd Bowles. Then you have the underlying issue which is the hiring of the coordinators, because in order to have an opportunity to become a head coach, the majority of the time, you need to have been an offensive or defensive coordinator. Well, 80 of the NFL's 85 current offensive coordinators, quarterback coaches, and offensive quality control coaches are white and 23 of 32 defensive coordinators are white. Those are crushing numbers for black coaches considering how the hiring game is played.

Which brings me up to my next point, because of the limited opportunities and the racial stereotypes that both of these groups face, is there a correlation between black head coaches and white running backs? As of this past year, I have realized that a number of the current or previous white running backs that have been given somewhat of an opportunity to display their talents have been overwhelmingly in favor by black coaches.

For example:

Current college white running back sensation Christian McCaffrey who leads the nation in all purpose yards, who set an all time NCAA record last season in purpose yards, and is projected to be a first rounder in the NFL 2017 draft has a black head-coach by the name of David Shaw.

Current Detroit Lions white running back Zach Zenner who you saw dominate the supposed best rushing defense (Dallas Cowboys) in the NFL on a Monday Night has a black-head coach by the name of Jim Caldwell.

Current Cincinnati Bengals white running back Rex Burkhead is excelling on limited opportunities thanks to black head coach Marvin Lewis. A couple of seasons ago, Marvin Lewis also had Brian Leonard on his team who was another white running back.

White running back Toby Gerhart was given an opportunity to display his talents with the help of black head-coach Leslie Frazier, which lead to Toby having an amazing 7.9 yards per carry in 2013 which lead to him receiving a luxurious contract in 2014 with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Alongside head coach Bill Belichick, New England Patriots black running back coach Ivan Fears saw immense potential in white running back Danny Woodhead during his tenure with the Patriots. The playing time helped Danny Woodhead generate interest from other teams within the league, which lead to a nice San Diego Chargers contract and in the year 2015, Danny Woodhead finished with over 1,000 all purpose yards.

Alongside head-coach Eric Magnani, Cleveland Browns black running back coach Gary Brown was in favor of promoting Peyton Hillis to lead the pack which lead to a 1,177 rushing yard season and over 13 TDs in total production (11 rushing, 2 receiving).

So is there a correlation between black head coaches and white running backs? I personally believe that there definitely does seem to be a trend, especially when
you have a handful of black head coaches that coach a handful of white running backs. Maybe the two groups share more in common than what most people will think.

- The Sapient
Feb 11, 2016
Good stuff but it has been well documented Brandon Wegher had a ton of issues at Iowa and other places. Though many black rb's have had very sketchy pasts like Lawrence Phillips and they seem to get a free pass.
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Hall of Famer
Jun 4, 2007
Great work, buddy!

I've often pondered this myself, especially this year with Zenner and Burkhead both having black head coaches. Of course, it took 2 blacks to get injured (Hill and Bernard) for Burkhead to get a chance and 3 (Abdullah, Riddick, and Washington) for Zenner to get a chance. But these coaches should be given some credit regardless.

One other fact to consider is that the percentage of NFL "running back assistant coaches" is probably 90-95% black and has been for 20+ years. Thus, by default some will employ the white talent that comes along via the draft and free agency, something they would have little control over.
Dec 10, 2012
..these coaches should be given some credit regardless..

I remember when McCaffrey was a Heisman front runner.. Michael Wilbon (a Black sports writer), was one of the few public media figures suggesting McCaffrey would be unfairly overlooked as a White player (excelling in a predominately Black position).

Wilbon honorably & succinctly summed up the caste in a 2 minute interview. He explained: deeply, entrenched stereotypes (ie- White RBs aren't legit), will cause Heisman voters to overlook, and diminish, McCaffrey's achievements. Conceivable to me, Black coaches & writers could be more fair (than their White peers) in evaluating a White RB, because the cultural-Marxist deracination program has been effectively, and often fratricidally, aimed solely at White Americans.


Sep 29, 2011
Honestly some of the fairest people to me in my life have been black. And I will say it for 10,000th time it is white people and (((white))) people (their silly ethnic animus) who are the core of the caste system. Break them that leaves the black racial bigots on a sinkable island, but for now black racial bigotry is a crowbar against the former two groups of caste system monitors.

Quiet Speed

Dec 19, 2004
We have to consider the possibility that some White coaches recognize the ability of these talented White backs, but are afraid that might lose favor with blacks players if featured or feel pressure to stick to a caste system. Whereas, blacks coaches don't have these complications. It doesn't say much for their integrity. I suppose there are some who just flat out prefer blacks. BTW, did Mike Tomlin or Denny Green ever have a White running back on board? I honestly do not know the answer. Tony Dungy had Mike Alstott, but remember reading he was forced on Dungy. Alstott probably had a lot more to give, IMHO.


Hall of Famer
Jan 19, 2007
Good write-up Sir Sapient. :)

IF there is such a correlation, then it speaks to fairness of the coach. I'll tip my hat to any coach that will start a White at RB or at CB...and/or starts alotta (10+) Whites.


Oct 31, 2009
I have pondered this too...& mentioned it on SEC Forums...asking would an SEC Coach start McCaffrey at WR & not Tailback? It took a coach with stones like David Shaw to give him the chance....crickets

It took USC DB coach Dennis Thurman to move Jason Sehorn from Safety to Corner players from opposing teams couldn't believe their eyes..they thought it was a light-skinned brutha underneath the uniform
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