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Indianapolis Colts job ought to go to a black coach

It’s the team’s best path to find an unappreciated gem

The Indianapolis Colts need a man to guide them out of the darkness. That man could be black.

After New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels retreated from accepting the team’s head coaching job, members of the Colts’ management find themselves entangled in desperation. Believing for weeks that McDaniels would formally sign a contract to coach the team after the Patriots’ postseason run ended, the Colts hired assistant coaches whom he coveted for his staff. This means Colts general manager Chris Ballard must search for a new head coach, but he needs one who will accept a job that will deny the candidate the chance to hire his own staff.

Making matters worse, the team’s franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck, is still nursing a shoulder injury and is not healthy enough to throw a football. Whatever coach the team might target, he cannot take the job with full confidence that one of the league’s best quarterbacks will ever take a snap.

Any of these factors would render the Colts job unattractive. But all of them together make the job downright ugly. This should force the Colts to outsmart the competition and find coaching value that teams have traditionally bypassed.

For instance, the “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics fielded winning ballclubs despite having a low payroll by exploiting market inefficiencies in baseball, prizing players with high slugging and on-base percentages when cash-rich teams favored players with high RBI totals and batting averages above .300.

Although the Colts are not cash-strapped, the team is in the unenviable position of needing to hire a coach without an attractive job to offer. In this situation, the Colts need to similarly exploit a market inefficiency in football: Teams overlook excellent head coaching prospects who are black. This is a market inefficiency the Colts need to exploit for two reasons:

First, a great black head coach candidate will feel less confident in his ability to get a good job in the future if he were to turn down the Colts job. Let’s say the Colts have two head coach candidates, one black and one white, and both warrant an A grade in terms of future promise. The white candidate, knowing how the system favors him, will be more confident that a better situation is out there for him than will the black candidate. This means that excellent white candidates are far less likely to settle for the Colts job.

Second, general managers seeking to hire a head coach don’t realize they probably underrate the ability of black coaches. The leading issue tripping up black head coach prospects is that teams, whether explicitly or implicitly, think they are less capable than white men. Thus, when the two hypothetical coaches enter the room, teams are likely to think the black coach is a worse prospect than he actually is. We see this, undervaluing the ability of black people, in all facets of American life, particularly in contexts where the evaluation process is largely subjective as is true in coaching. Teams truly want to hire the best coach. They just are far less likely to notice the best when the best has black skin.

If the Colts want to climb from the doldrums of the NFL, the organization should do what so many others won’t: Exploit the market inefficiency and seriously consider black coaches.

Brando Simeo Starkey is an associate editor at The Undefeated and the author of In Defense of Uncle Tom: Why Blacks Must Police Racial Loyalty. He crawled through a river of books and came out brilliant on the other side.