Condoleeza Rice is an exceptionally talented, resilient, and intelligent woman. She was the first female to hold the position of national security advisor under President George W. Bush then later became the first female African American secretary of state.
What Rice is not, nor will likely ever be, is a National Football League head coach.
The Cleveland Browns—being, well, the Cleveland Browns—think differently. According to ESPN, Browns General Manager John Dorsey said the team is open to hiring a woman as their next head coach, and they’re interested in interviewing Rice for the job. If the Browns go through with it, Rice would add another “first” to her impressive resume. She’d become the first woman to interview for an NFL head-coaching position.
After the news broke and trended on social media, Dorsey released this statement: “Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is a great leader, possesses the highest possible character and also happens to be a Browns fan. I have the utmost respect and admiration for all she’s accomplished and was honored to meet her for the first time earlier this season. Our coaching search will be thorough and deliberate, but we are also still in the process of composing the list of candidates and Secretary Rice has not been discussed.”
Rice released the following:
I’m all for breaking glass ceilings, but the accolade of being the first woman to interview for a head-coaching job should go to a woman who has actually coached football once in her life. For example, the Browns could look at Kathryn Smith, whom the Buffalo Bills hired as a quality control assistant. Perhaps Dorsey takes a look at Kelsey Martinez, who was hired to the Oakland Raiders strength staff, or considers Katie Sowers, whom the 49ers hired as an offensive assistant.
How would you not feel slighted if you were one of the aforementioned women putting in sleepless nights (most team staff members are lucky to sleep six hours a night) and long days on a sport that wouldn’t even consider your promotion first?
Yes, Rice, 64, is a long-time Cleveland Browns fan. She grew to love the sport watching games with her dad while she grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and proudly touted her fandom by wearing a Browns jersey in NFL ads (not an easy thing for Browns fans to do, considering the team had only won four games in the last three seasons prior to this year).
In October 2013, she was selected as one of the 13 inaugural members of the College Football Playoff selection committee. When fans scratched their heads over her inclusion on that committee, she said she watched 14 or 15 games every weekend. She left that role when it expired for the 2016 season.
Look, like Rice, plenty of women are fans of football. I spent 10 years working in sports media covering all 32 teams on NFL sidelines. While I can break down some plays, critique performances, and watch several games a day, that does not qualify me or anyone else without coaching experience to handle the rigors of a coaching job.
As a fan of Rice, I’ve always suggested she take a position with the NFL offices in New York and would be a great fit as a possible NFL commissioner. There, she could use her long political history of wrangling men in positions of power to become the first female and minority commissioner for the league. At least in that role, she’d have more experience in football given her role on the College Football Playoff Committee.
However, in no way is Rice a fit for a team as beleaguered as the Browns. Let’s be real, this is the same team that hired a long-time MLB executive and scout to become its chief of football operations. Unless it’s drafting quarterback Baker Mayfield with last year’s number one overall pick, making good decisions isn’t quite the Browns’ strong suit.
Bottom line: The Browns need to focus less on making headlines for accomplishments off the field and focus more on trying to create history on the field. Or just keep restocking those stadium fridges with Budweiser for some more wins.