The NFL has expressed disappointment regarding the fact that 15 key hires were made in the last two weeks and none of the jobs went to minorities.
In response, the Fritz Pollard Alliance has asked the NFL to expand the Rooney Rule, which currently requires at least one minority candidate to be interviewed for every head-coaching and G.M. vacancy. Under the proposal, the rule would expand to coordinators, assistant head coaches, and team presidents.
“We know that the clubs individually and collectively can do better,” said attorney Cyrus Mehri, whose efforts a decade ago with the late Johnnie Cochran prompted the creation of the Rooney Rule. “We believe that extending the Rooney Rule to the coordinator, assistant head coach and president positions will deepen the pipeline and enhance the competition for the top jobs in the years ahead.”
The recent shift away from minority coaching hires has been attributed to a trend that favors offensive coaches — and the lack of minority play-callers.
“In this quarterback-dominated era, it seems clubs are increasingly looking for offensive coaches to fill head coaching positions in particular, and far too few minority coaches have been given offensive coordinator and play-calling responsibilities,” Mehri said. “We want to see a special focus on offensive coordinator and play calling duties going forward. We have many experienced wide receiver and running back position coaches ready to be coordinators now.”
The use of the Rooney Rule for club presidents will, if it results in increased minority, ensure that there will be more diverse groups selecting coaches and General Managers.
“Last night at the Senior Bowl, we met with a good cross section of our members,” Fritz Pollard Alliance executive director John Wooten said. “They are very frustrated and disappointed with the recent hiring stats, but they are behind this new call to action. And just a day after Martin Luther King Day, we have to remember Dr. King’s words: The arc of history bends towards justice. We will learn from this and move forward in a positive way.”
The issue remains a thorny one for the NFL. The Rooney Rule does not mandate hiring; it only mandates an opportunity to interview, for one minority candidate per job. The problem is that owners typically enter the hiring process with a wish list containing a few names. The idea that the league office often forces owners to conduct unnecessary interviews is more likely to create resentment than diversity.
That same mindset will apply to coordinators and assistant head coaches. New coaches fill their staffs primarily by hiring friends or relatives, or relatives of friends. Tapping the brakes for interviews of people the coaches don’t plan to hire will serve only to anger the coaches.
And so there remains only two truly effective solutions to the current problem: The passage of time, which will result in an influx of owners who came of age in an increasingly open and diverse society, or the filing of a class-action lawsuit for racial discrimination.