[SPORTS] Lloyd Lee - NFL's 1st Asian American Coach in Super Bowl
- First Asian Coach Goes to the Super Bowl
EDITOR'S NOTE: Bears Coach Lloyd Lee is the game's first Asian
American coach in the Super Bowl. There are many reasons he's a
rarity, writes NAM editor Pueng Vongs.
SAN FRANCISCO Lost in the celebration of the first black head
coaches to reach the Super Bowl is that the first Asian American
coach wll be pacing the sidelines in the Big One.
When the Chicago Bears meet the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, on the
sidelines with Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who gave the Windy City
back its strut, will be Lloyd Lee, assistant coach on defense. He's a
rare sight, one of the few Asian American coaches in the NFL.
It's not surprising to me that there are very few Asian coaches in
the NFL. My Asian parents and most others I know want their children
to be brain surgeons, engineers, harpists. The last thing they want
is their kid getting speared by a helmet in the neck or coaching jr.
high football for $28,000 a year, where many NFL coaches get their
What they don't understand is that it often requires mathematical
brilliance to figure out the dozens of permutations Colts'
quarterback Peyton Manning could line up for his explosive offense in
the 30 seconds before he snaps the ball. A quarterback needs surgical
precision to penetrate the lightning-quick defense of Da Bears.
Lloyd Lee understands this. He was a star safety at Dartmouth before
being drafted by the San Diego Chargers. Okay, the Ivy League
conference is not the same as the Big Ten conference, but he helped
Dartmouth to an undefeated season and a championship.
Lee eventually went the way many Asian American players do leave
the game or settle for the sidelines. They're often seen as too small
or not fast enough for the NFL. He was cut after one year alternating
on the Chargers' practice squad.
Instead of going to the 9 to 5 world, Lee stuck with football. He
found a job in the back office as a scout for the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers, trading body crunching for numbers crunching. The Bears
also hired him as a Defensive Quality Control coach, which partly
means technical stuff, organizing the club's computer data and video
Last year the Bears promoted Lee back to the battlefield, and he's
now a defensive coach butting heads with the defensive backs and
linebackers. It's now those backs that he worked with who will be
flying across the field to put the big hurt on Manning and Co. in
pursuit of the holy Super Bowl XLI ring.
It's doubtful Lee will someday achieve the stature of Bears' coach
Lovie Smith and his mentor Colts' coach Tony Dungy. There are simply
not enough Asian coaches in the NFL to mentor other Asian coaches,
and not enough Asian players to rise through the ranks.
For example, African American players make up 70 percent of the NFL,
and 18 percent of head coaches. There are just three NFL players of
Asian descent in the league, Pittsburg Steelers wide receiver Hines
Ward, who is half-Korean, Tennesee Titans offensive lineman Eugene
Amano, who is Filipino, and New York Giants safety Will Demps, who is
also half-Korean. There are no Asian head coaches.
Some say Norm Chow, former offensive genius of the USC Trojans, who
helped the team to two national championships, could be the next
Asian hope. He's considered one of the most creative minds in
football and is now the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee
Titans. But some said when he got that job that he deserved to coach
his own NFL team. Chow even got a second look for head coach of the
Arizona Cardinals recently, but didn't get the job.
Seeing an Asian on the sidelines of the Super Bowl will go a long way
in inspiring the Asian American players -- Chinese, Vietnamese and
Filipino -- who are now at the core of high school championship
football teams in San Francisco, constantly dispelling myths that
they are too slow and not as strong.
For Asians to make to head honcho in the greatest show on turf, they
will need the continuing help and mentoring of ethnic minority
coaches that come before them. Just like my beloved Bears head coach,
an African American, who hired a defensive coordinator who is a
Latino, Ron Rivera, now being considered as the head coach for the
Dallas Cowboys. Rivera himself hired an Asian as an assistant coach,
Lee. This mutual support gives new meaning to the term Super Bowl.