Sean McVay
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay leaves the field Sunday after losing Super Bowl LIII to the New England Patriots. — AP Photo/David J. Phillip
There is a phenomenon in sports, perpetuated by the media, I’ve been paying attention to for years that I’ve come up with the perfect label for: the WGBOTD, or the White Guy Benefit Of The Doubt.
The WGBOTD is giving the benefit of the doubt that someone who has proven to be mostly good at something will become transformational based upon nothing more than feelings, hunches and assumptions — despite a relatively small body of work to support these notions.
On Fe. 3, in the New England Patriots’ 13-3 Super Bowl LIII victory over the Los Angeles Rams, the WGBOTD was on full display in the personage of Rams Coach Sean McVay.
McVay was hired to coach the Rams at 30, becoming the youngest NFL coach in the history of the league prior to the 2017 season. This was after two seasons as the offensive coordinator in Washington, where to his credit, he drastically improved the team’s offense but never led them to the playoffs.
This past season, his second as head coach, McVay guided the Rams, arguably as talented as any team in the league, to their first Super Bowl appearance since 2000 on the strength of an offense that was the second best in the league.
On Sunday, however, the boy genius was wretched. The Rams became just the second team in NFL history to fail to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Their 3 points tied the game’s record for fewest points scored in the 53 years of the game. The Rams wet the bed in the heat of the moment and this falls primarily on McVay’s inability to generate any scoring.
However, before the clock ran out for McVay at the Super Bowl, the magic associated with the young coach anointed as a genius by many had already impacted the hiring practices of NFL owners in search of the next McVay. Google “McVay effect” and hundreds of stories will pop up touting it.
Of the eight coaches fired at the end of the 2018 season, five were African American. Brian Flores was the lone Black coach hired (Miami). As a result, next season, in a league where approximately 70 percent of the players are Black, just three of the 32 head coaching positions will be filled by an African American.
Through its first 82 seasons, the NFL hired an appallingly low seven African-American coaches, prompting the institution of the Rooney Rule, which in 2003 demanded teams at least interview African-American coaches. Since its implementation, 14 African-American coaches have been hired. The average age of these coaches is 47, which means they have toiled far longer and paid significantly greater dues to achieve their status than McVay.
Meanwhile, McVay’s pixie dust continues to land on young white coaching candidates with minimal qualifications the likes of which would never get Black coaches hired.
Green Bay hired 39-year-old Matt LaFleur, McVay’s offensive coordinator in 2017 who spent last year in the same position at Tennessee.
Phoenix made a mockery of the process when it hired 39-year-old Kliff Kingsbury. Other than somewhat resembling McVay physically, Kingsbury comes to the NFL with no NFL pedigree. Kingsbury was fired last November after six years as the head coach at Texas Tech. He was hired by USC to be its offensive coordinator. Still, with minimal experience, the NFL, looking for yet another McVay, came calling. Kingsbury, in fact, interviewed with at least two other teams looking for head coaches before settling on Phoenix.
When the Cardinals announced Kingsbury as their coach in a press release, they literally said Kingsbury is friends with McVay, “the offensive genius who has become the blueprint of many of the new coaching hires around the NFL.”
There’s a reason for the hiring of men such as McVay — young, White and significantly less experienced than the African Americans continually passed over for these coaching jobs — and it has everything to do with stereotypes, assumptions and, most notably, the WGBOTD, something a Black coach can never possess.
John N. Mitchell has worked as a journalist for more than a quarter century. He can be reached at and Tweet at @freejohnmitchel.