Few would argue that the NFL’s Rooney Rule is a bad idea.
But numbers from recent hiring cycles shows that its implementation is still very flawed, and that the path to progress for many minority coaches is still blocked.
According to Mike Sando of ESPN.com, only one first-time minority head coach (Todd Bowles) has been hired in the last five offseasons, while 21 first-time white head coaches got jobs. And minority candidates aren’t even getting into the pipeline for the jobs that result in promotions, as 80 of the 85 offensive coordinators, quarterbacks coaches and offensive-quality-control coaches are white.
Overall, a third of NFL coaches are minorities, but if they’re in jobs that rarely considered for coordinator or head coach positions, it’s hard to see the progress.
“The good thing about the Rooney Rule was not that you had to interview a minority candidate but that it slowed the process down and made you do some research,” newly minted Hall of Famer Tony Dungy said. “But now it seems like in the last few years, people haven’t really done what the rule was designed for. It has become, ‘Just let me talk to a couple minority coaches very quickly so I can go about the business of hiring the person I really want to hire anyway.'”
The research shows that only three teams in the league — the Jets, Panthers and Steelers — have staffs with at least half minority coaches.
“Too frequently, we don’t look at leadership, we don’t look at getting the most out of people, we don’t look at bringing people together and staffs together — all those things that you need to be a head coach,” Dungy said. “It is an inexact science. It is done in an inexact way. Look how long it took Bruce Arians to get a head-coaching job; it is not just with minorities.
“But I think when you are a minority coach, you have even that added burden, or added handicap of not always being highly publicized. For owners who do not know what they are looking for, it is much easier to say, ‘Well, I’ll take Candidate A because at least everybody knows him and everybody will say this is a good hire.'”
Over the past few hiring cycles, a number of coaches have seemingly become the usual suspects, who get rounded up to satisfy Rooney Rule requirements. Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said he thought only two of his four interviews this offseason were legitimate, and he’s far from the only one who thinks that way.