The New York Jets are one of the few teams across the NFL that currently employs an ethnic minority as their head coach. Robert Saleh became the first Muslim head coach in NFL history when he was hired by Gang Green back in 2021 after excellent runs as defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers.
But Saleh is one of just a handful of minority coaches that have risen through the ranks in recent years. While the NFL has focused on improving the diversity among their leadership positions, still only six minority coaches are currently leaders of their organization.
The league has sought for many years to fix its diversity concerns. Its latest workshop is using the “coaching accelerator program” to increase exposure between owners, executives, and diverse coaching talent, providing ample opportunity to develop and build upon their relationships. Teams were able to nominate candidates outside their organization this year.
For the Jets, they have sent senior defensive assistant/cornerbacks coach Tony Oden to this program as his current stock continues to rise among young defensive-minded talents.
Oden was brought to the Jets when Saleh was hired in 2021 after spending the last few years with him in San Francisco. Under the 49-year-old coach, New York’s secondary has transformed into one of the best overall groups in the league with plenty of impact players. New York also improved from 30th in pass defense in 2021 to third thanks to Oden’s tutelage.
With the emergence of reigning defensive rookie of the year Sauce Gardner, DJ Reed, and a handful of other key players in the secondary, Oden is considered a rising candidate for several defensive coaching jobs, as well as potential head coaching jobs down the road.
In time, the growth of programs such as the league’s coaching accelerator program will allow for coaches like Oden to have their names known among several key decision-makers, not just for the Jets.
“In the year since its inception, we’ve been encouraged by the positive response to the Accelerator from both club owners and participants,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We look forward to continuing to build on an incredible program that supports diverse talent.”
Oden is among 40 other representatives that will be able to network with owners and other team executives. 16 are returning from last year’s event with other names like Leslie Frazier, Pep Hamilton, and Giants’ own Jeff Nixon also being in attendance.