At the end of Sunday afternoon’s Denver Broncos-New York Jets game at MetLife Stadium, across the bridge in Rutherford, N.J., the two head coaches, Vance Joseph (Denver) and Todd Bowles (New York) walked across the field to shake hands, to greet each other as football coaches customarily do.
Both coaches, Bowles the winner on this day, are not just two of the NFL’s 32 head coaches, they’re two of the seven African-American men who are head coaches of National Football League teams.
Bowles, born in Elizabeth, N.J., turning 55 next month, is in his fourth season with the Jets. Vance, 46, is in his second season with the Broncos.
Of the seven, Marvin Lewis, head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, is the group’s elder statesman. Lewis, 60, has coached the Bengals since the 2003-2004 season. Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2007, is the most accomplished. He’s taken his Pittsburgh team to two Super Bowls during his tenure there.
Now 46, Tomlin is the youngest head coach in NFL history to lead a team to a Super Bowl championship. At 36, his 2008-2009 Steeler team, 12-4 during the regular season, defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIIl, his second season as a head coach.
During the 2010-2011 season, Tomlin led the Steelers to another 12-4 record, and to another Super Bowl appearance, a narrow 31-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl XLV.
Also in the fraternity is Hue Jackson, head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Jackson, turning 53 this month, is in his third season. Anthony Lynn, 49, is in his second year with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Steven Wilks is the rookie of the group. Hired this year in January by Arizona, Wilks, 49, started his first season as a head coach, struggling, experiencing how difficult it can be to win in the NFL.
More than elated to get his first “one” in Arizona’s win column as a head coach after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 28-18 Sunday, Wilks said, “Do you know what I’ve been dealing with the last four weeks?” when asked about getting his first victory since the 2018-2019 season started in September. “It feels great. Yes it does … Hopefully, it’s the first of many.”