Ed Driscoll

ADVANTAGE, ED! Back on Friday,

ADVANTAGE, ED! Back on Friday, February 7th, we wrote:

The black coaches who declined to interview with the Lions seem to have a short memory. If the Lions and Mariucci couldn’t have come to terms on a contract, they would have been in the same position as Tampa Bay and Bill Parcells last year. Mariucci–as Parcells did–would spend a year in the TV booth, and the Lions would have been scrambling to find a replacement, and at that point, Denny Green would be a perfect fit.

This weekend, Peter King of Sports Illustrated wrote:

I’m going to say something that is bound to generate a ton of what-an-idiot-you-are e-mail. I welcome said mail.

I think the African-American coaches who were asked to interview with the Detroit Lions but refused because Steve Mariucci had a near-lock on the job made a big mistake.

I’d been thinking this since five black coaches each said no to an interview request from Lions CEO Matt Millen, thus igniting the hot-stove-league firestorm around the issue. I even asked Millen about it, and he said he had tried to make the same argument, the contention being that black coaches know there are 32 white men, the owners of NFL franchises, holding those 32 sacred jobs hostage. To get one of those jobs, you have to break the code. You have to get inside the circle. You can only get inside the circle one way — by meeting these men, impressing them and convincing them you ought to be in their little club. And even if they don’t hire you, you’re three percent closer (1/32nd) to your goal than you were. You’ve met with one of the gatekeepers of these jobs, and hopefully made an impression on him. And when a vacancy occurs somewhere else, the owner with the opening then might call Millen or one of the Fords (Bill Sr., or Jr.) and ask about you.

This was reinforced last week when I talked to Ted Cottrell, the Jets defensive coordinator who was spurned by San Francisco in favor of Dennis Erickson. Now, the prevailing opinion is that Cottrell was just a flunky keeping the seat warm until the Niners found a white coach they liked better. That he was a phony leading candidate. I can say with certainty that this is total horsecrap. Dr. John York, who, with his wife, Denise DeBartolo York, rides herd over the 49ers, was the gatekeeper to this job. San Francisco general manager Terry Donahue would identify the leading candidates, then run the list through York, and the two would decide on a coach together. (Team consultant Bill Walsh was, shall we say, “consulted.” But this hire was not his call. He advised both men.)

Had Erickson blown the interview with York and Donahue nine days ago, or had some red flags gone up when Erickson met them, this would have been Cottrell’s job. Two separate Niners sources, including York himself, told me this. Three times York dined alone with Cottrell — breakfast, lunch and dinner — and they didn’t talk about the blue-plate specials. They discussed the nuts and bolts of the job: which coaches Cottrell would want to keep, how he’d fit in the strict front-office setup. “I really, really liked Ted Cottrell,” said York, “and I think he’s going to make a very good head coach in the league. And I’ll tell anyone who asks me that. I will recommend him highly.”

Emphasis above mine.