Bucs' Todd Bowles downplays attention on coaching matchup with Steelers' Mike Tomlin

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles on Wednesday downplayed the attention on his upcoming coaching matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin, one of the few games this season that will feature two Black head coaches.

"I have a very good relationship with Tomlin," Bowles said Wednesday when asked about them being two of the league's four Black coaches, a group that now includes Steve Wilks, who replaced the fired Matt Rhule on an interim basis this week in Carolina. "We don't look at what color we are when we coach against each other, we just know each other.

"I have a lot of very good white friends that coach in this league as well, and I don't think it's a big deal as far as us coaching against each other, I think it's normal. Wilks got an opportunity to do a good job, hopefully he does it. And we coach ball, we don't look at color."

Bowles then was asked about the impact of representation and what it means for aspiring coaches who are minorities to see NFL coaches who "looks like them" and possibly "grew up like them."

"Well, when you say, 'They see you guys,' and 'look like them and grew up like them,' it means that we're oddballs to begin with," Bowles said. "I think the minute you guys stop making a big deal about it, everybody else will as well."

The NFL has come under increased scrutiny in recent years for its lack of Black head coaches when roughly 70% of the league's players are Black. Following Wilks' promotion, there are four active NFL head coaches who are Black: Wilks, Bowles, Tomlin and Lovie Smith of the Houston Texans. Aside from those four, three additional head coaches are people of color: the Miami Dolphins' Mike McDaniel, who is biracial; the New York Jets' Robert Saleh, who is of Lebanese descent; and the Washington Commanders' Ron Rivera, who is Latino.

In February, former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and several teams alleging racial discrimination in its hiring practices. Wilks, who was the Arizona Cardinals' head coach for one season in 2018, and Ray Horton, an NFL assistant since 1994 who interviewed for the Tennessee Titans' head-coaching job in 2016, later joined Flores' suit as plaintiffs.