Mike Freeman’s 10-Point Stance: When Will the NFL Have Its Own Becky Hammon?

Mike Freeman’s 10-Point Stance: When Will the NFL Have Its Own Becky Hammon?

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 eq

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