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Steelers’ Teryl Austin waits for his head coaching chance

PITTSBURGH — Teryl Austin has been the place Brian Flores is many instances. Eleven to be actual, however who’s counting?

Well, Austin is.

It’s laborious to not once you stroll into the office of an NFL common supervisor in hopes of touchdown the head coaching job you’ve all the time needed — a job you consider you’re certified for — on practically a dozen events, solely to ultimately get the dreaded “thanks but no thanks” telephone name. Every single time.

“It’s a lot,” the Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant coach informed The Associated Press in October.

At least Flores, who filed a lawsuit in opposition to the NFL over alleged racist hiring practices on Tuesday, has had a flip on the wheel. He spent three seasons in Miami, managing two successful information, earlier than getting fired in January for what crew proprietor Stephen Ross described as an absence of synergy between Flores and the entrance office.

The 54-year-old Austin has been a defensive assistant on three groups that reached the Super Bowl — incomes a hoop with Baltimore after the 2012 season. He labored as defensive coordinator for two others, a quantity that would tick as much as three if he’s tabbed to exchange Keith Butler, who stepped down from the position in Pittsburgh final month.

Still, 0 for 11. It’s a quantity troublesome for Austin to get his head round.

“It always leaves you wondering what happened, why you didn’t get it,” he stated. “You can’t say for sure (if race was a factor). … Maybe I’m not what the owners see when they look in the mirror and they see leadership positions.”

Austin landed within the NFL in 2003, the identical year “The Rooney Rule” was adopted by the league in an try to advertise variety. The rule initially required groups to interview no less than one individual of coloration for head coaching vacancies, and has been expanded to common supervisor and different front-office positions. Austin appreciates the intent of the rule, even when which means there have been instances when he was interviewed simply so a crew may “check a box.”

“Because I think I’ve had 11, I can tell when one was just an (expletive) interview and I could tell when I was really in it,” he stated. “And so to me, that’s kind of worth it.”

That doesn’t imply the conferences that felt merely performative didn’t sting. He sat down with the Detroit Lions in 2018 to speak about changing buddy and mentor Jim Caldwell. Austin spent 4 years because the crew’s defensive coordinator beneath Caldwell, a span during which the Lions had been a decent 36-28. Detroit as an alternative opted to herald then-Patriots assistant Matt Patricia.

Teryl Davis has been on 11 head-coaching interviews, and never employed for a single one.
AP Photo

“(Former Lions general manager) Bob Quinn knew he was hiring Matt Patricia and used Teryl to comply with the Rooney Rule,” Austin’s agent Eric Metz stated in a word to the AP on Wednesday. “Didn’t work out well for the Lions. Never should’ve fired Jim Caldwell.”

Other experiences had been totally different. He completed as runner-up to Anthony Lynn when Lynn was employed to educate the Chargers in 2017 and Metz factors out his consumer and longtime buddy obtained “rave reviews of Teryl’s interviews. His leadership, communication and coaching acumen were extremely impressive.”

Yet Austin remains to be ready for his first head coaching alternative, his irritating journey one among a number of detailed by Flores in courtroom filings. Asked Wednesday if he needed to revisit his discuss with the AP following Flores’ determination to sue, Austin stated via a Steelers spokesman he stood by his unique feedback.

Maybe it’s becoming. Because from the place Austin sits, the league stays in a lot the identical position now because it was when the Seattle Seahawks employed him to educate defensive backs in 2003. Back then, he thought he had a bead on what it could take to turn out to be a head coach: Excel as a position coach, then get promoted to coordinator and crush that job, too.

So that’s what Austin did, first for Seattle, then Arizona and Baltimore earlier than calling the performs in Detroit and Cincinnati. Only someplace alongside the best way, he believes “the goal posts moved.”

Teams started looking out for younger offensive gurus like Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay and Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor, who will face off in subsequent week’s Super Bowl.

Teryl Austin was handed over by the Lions in favor of Matt Patrica.
Getty Images

“It’s like, ‘We’re going to go this way now?’” Austin stated. “So what’s that do? That cuts out a lot of guys who have worked their way up and become coordinators, because most of the (Black) coordinators for us have been on defense, not on offense.”

Austin understands the shift in a league the place the ever-evolving guidelines are designed to place factors on the board and followers within the seats. He’d wish to see extra alternatives for Black coaches to turn out to be offensive coordinators. Currently, there are solely two: Kansas City’s Eric Bieniemy and Tampa Bay’s Byron Leftwich, each of whom are former gamers.

“There is no pipeline (for Black offensive coaches),” Austin stated. “You know, you can count on your hand how many Black quarterback coaches, how many offensive coordinators, how many offensive line coaches in this league are people of color.”

Not many, which makes the mathematics straightforward and explains to Austin why, in the mean time, there is only one Black head coach within the NFL: Mike Tomlin, who occurs to be Austin’s boss.

“If they’re picking from this pool of guys where there are no people of color, that’s why there are no people of color getting head jobs,” Austin stated. “To me, that only makes sense.”

Austin feels the NFL Players Association and the Fritz Pollard Alliance want to easily hold attacking the issue, reinforcing that solely as a result of a candidate is perhaps receiving an interview to assist a crew adjust to the Rooney Rule doesn’t imply the candidate isn’t certified.

That’s simply a part of the battle, nevertheless. Figuring out a approach to navigate the politics of the hiring course of is one other matter solely.

“It’s tough when you’re going into a job, and (people) go, ‘This guy is a favorite for a job’ and before you ever walk into an interview, you’re fighting an uphill battle,” he stated. “That’s something that has to change.”

Austin doesn’t know if he’ll ultimately be supplied a chance to turn out to be a head coach. All he can do is do what he’s been doing. His pores and skin coloration is out of his management. The hiring preferences of others are out of his management. The approach he goes about doing his job isn’t.

“I can’t sit here and lie and say ’everything has gone to plan,’” he stated. “There were times I thought I probably should have had an opportunity to lead a team and it didn’t happen. You get disappointed with it, but you’ve got to pick yourself up just like you tell your players: ‘You’ve got to pick yourself up and keep moving.’”