Former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton is a talented and creative defensive coordinator and may be a head coach in the NFL soon. Horton coordinated a Cardinals defense that finished in the top 5 defending the pass and #12 in total defense, a dramatic improvement from when he took over the squad. He is a former player, he is confident and his players love him.
These are all great qualities and I’m sure it’s what helped him land the defensive coordinator job in Cleveland. A lateral move isn’t what Ray Horton was looking for this off season; Horton wanted to be a head coach. Horton had a major factor going against him in his pursuit of a head coaching job in the NFL, the continuing explosion of the passing game with 11 quarterbacks passing for over 4,000 yards representing a 50% increase from just five years ago. NFL teams were very focused on finding an offensive minded head coach who could help them keep up with this trend. General Managers and owners can’t be blamed for chasing this offensive unicorn, six out of the eleven quarterbacks who passed for over 4,000 yards made the playoffs and two are in the conference finals. If you drop the 4,000 yard bar down to 3,800 you would net Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, and Joe Flacco all with a chance to play in the Super Bowl this year. This is a development that Ray Horton can do little about, with the rule changes in the NFL favoring the offense and the college game doing a much better job of preparing quarterbacks to come to the NFL and have early success.
What Horton does have control over is his image. The job of an NFL head coach is one of a high level executive; the NFL is a billion dollar business. Horton’s hair is a potential problem that NFL owners may pretend to overlook but during the interview process it’s staring them right in the face. Ray Horton has cornrows, this is not ok! You know who else has cornrows? Players! I can’t help but to wonder as an NFL owner is looking for a head coach and looks at Horton does he see a player. We all want to think that we are passed being so shallow and can overcome human nature with practice and patience, think again. Have you noticed there are no overweight people in McDonald’s commercials, no pictures of cavities in candy commercials, and I swear I’m going to start drinking only Ciroc vodka if it means I can have just one night like P. Diddy has in those commercials! Image matters, looks matter, and the human sub conscious is powerful. NFL owners’ want someone who is distinctly different from being a player, rightfully so because sub consciously most owners don’t want to be in the decision making business with NFL players. An NFL coach is the ultimate decision maker representing a franchise weekly on television, in the local charity community and I’m sure in the owners’ social circles. The salaries NFL coaches command are right in line with high level executive salaries for Fortune 500 companies and that’s what the NFL has become, a white collar business. It’s important to point out that this is not a race issue, if Horton was white and had a foehawk or 80’s style rock band mane the same rules would apply. This is about image, it’s about being able to assess that the current environment is not in your favor and trying to remove all barriers to get your dream job.
Ray Horton appears to be a very talented coach whose time may come, if he is qualified for the position I hope he gets it while he still has the energy of a young man……………..just not the hair of one.