First, the Buccaneers are the first team to reach the Super Bowl with three Black assistant coaches serving as coordinators.
Former NFL quarterback Byron Leftwich is the offensive coordinator and play-caller for Tampa. Todd Bowles is the defensive coordinator and former Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator, Keith Armstrong, serves in a similar position for the Bucs.
In addition, the Buccaneers have seven more Black assistant coaches and two women serve on their staff.
“He came in — he was so bright as a quarterback and he had that natural leadership about him going all the way back to Marshall when they were carrying him down the field,” described Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians, discussing Byron Leftwich’s leadership qualities. “That part of him has never left. He was a smart player, so he became a very smart coach, quickly. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be coaching if Byron wasn’t available.”
Maral Javadifar, assistant strength and conditioning coach, and Lori Locust, an assistant defensive line coach are the two women that will be on the field during the Super Bowl.
“I feel extremely blessed to have this opportunity,” Javadifar told reporters on an NFL Zoom call. “And I know that Coach Lo, and I’m sure Sarah (Thomas, the first female official to work in a Super Bowl) feel the same way. I do look forward to the day that it’s no longer newsworthy to be a woman working in the pros, or making the Super Bowl for that matter.”
Kansas City’s offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has catapulted himself to become one of the more recognizable assistants in the NFL. Appearing in his second straight Super Bowl, and coming off of last year’s triumph, Bieniemy has not become a head coach. Even though Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy, two men that previously served as head coach Andy Reid’s offensive coordinators became head coaches. Reid said Wednesday he would take part in an inquisition seeking answers.
“I don’t really know. Am I upset? Yeah, I’m a big fan of his, and I know what he can help do for a team but most of all, for the National Football League,” said Reid Wednesday. “I think he’s so deserving of that opportunity. I’m hoping someday it comes. I was expecting it last year, and it didn’t happen. I definitely thought it would happen this year and it didn’t happen. I can’t tell you the last part of your question. I think he’s as ready as anybody.”
Bieniemy, 51, has become the face of the growing issue of nepotism and the good ole’ boy network that the Rooney Rule was supposed to stamp out when it was created eighteen years ago at the behest of the late Johnnie Cochran and former Steelers owner and head of the NFL’s diversity committee, the late Dan Rooney.
“I did not ask to be the poster boy of this particular situation,” Bieniemy said. “We’ve had a great deal of success where I’ve been recognized to interview for some jobs. And so those interviews, for whatever reason, I have not been hired – which is OK. When it’s all said and done, I have a responsibility to the Kansas City Chiefs and our players to make sure we’re mentally and physically ready to go come game day.”
David Culley, former Baltimore Ravens wide receivers coach, was the only Black man hired during the 2021 coaching cycle. Culley’s hiring by the Houston Texans, was seen as a method to placate star quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was furious that he was not consulted on the hiring of the General Manager and Head Coach. Watson has requested a trade.
As the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play for the Super Bowl, both teams have championed diversity on the football field and in the coaching ranks.
“A player is going to ask a coach, how are you going to make me better? He really doesn’t care if the answer comes from a male, a female, Black, white, brown, yellow, whoever. Just help me get better. … If you can teach, you can coach,” Arians said.