Three NFL coaches have been fired in the last two weeks. For each of the three teams (Jaguars, Chiefs, and Dolphins), the interim head coach is African-American.
That has prompted some to speculate that the choice of a minority interim coach by one or more of the teams was aimed at opening the door for the hiring of a permanent, non-minority coach before the end of the current season.
But that’s not how it works.
“Once the season is concluded, the head coaching position must be considered open and the club must fill the position in accordance with the interviewing guidelines,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT via email on Tuesday morning. “No club may make a commitment to a coach retained during the season that extends beyond the end of the club’s playing season.”
In other words, hiring a minority coach to serve as the interim head coach doesn’t operate as a blank check to hire a permanent head coach whenever the team chooses to do so.
These machinations flow from the Rooney Rule, a nearly 10-year-old provision that requires at least one minority candidate to be interviewed for every head-coaching vacancy. Regardless of whether we’ve reached a point where the Rooney Rule no longer is needed (and with each passing year we arguably are), it remains on the books.
For teams hiring interim coaches who are members of a minority group, compliance with the Rooney Rule necessarily becomes easier, since the interim head coach can promptly be interviewed for the permanent position as soon as the season ends, which then opens the door for the team to hire whomever it wants to hire.
Still, hiring an interim coach who is a member of a minority group does not allow the team to accelerate the process of hiring the permanent head coach.