When it comes to diversity and the demographics of its pool of players, the NFL’s hiring practices for head coaching jobs have gone from worse to abysmal. Few have offered clear, tangible solutions for encouraging a country club consisting mainly of older white men to move in a slow, methodical way that gives fair consideration to candidates from all backgrounds.
Giants co-owner John Mara recently suggested an expansion of the Rooney Rule to include not only head coaching jobs but also certain important assistant assignments that become the pathway to running a team.
“We’re obviously using the Rooney Rule for the head coaching candidates, but I think we may have to use the rule for the feeder positions, especially on the offensive side of the ball because that’s where so many of the head coaches come from,” Mara told Peter King for his latest Football Morning in America column. “We talked in December on the Workplace Diversity Committee about feeding the pipeline further. I can tell you: This is a real concern of the Commissioner and the league.”
That’s fine, but it needs to be a concerns for the owners, billionaires who are used to doing what they want and aren’t going to deviate from a path that they believe will be more likely to yield victories in the name of helping the league improve its statistics when it comes to the representation of minorities in a pro football team’s most important non-playing roles. Ultimately, it’s a convergence of self-interest on both sides of the problem that keeps management from naturally and organically changing its ways — and that keeps those who have been wrongfully overlooked for promotions from doing anything about it.
Owners won’t allow themselves to be pushed to hire someone other than the guy they want to hire. And assistant coaches who continue to be passed over won’t be willing to sacrifice their careers in the name of pursuing one of the only avenues that can force businesses to change their practices.
Ultimately, litigation provokes change. Business owners adjust when the threat of litigation, actual litigation, and/or the consequences of litigation give them no choice but to make alterations to their procedures and practices. Absent the genuine and immediate threat of litigation, it’s a P.R. issue. And it has yet to become a major P.R. problem for the league.
It’s a two-week story, at most. An annoyance for the league, which will go away once the Super Bowl teams are determined, to resurface at the earliest the following January. It doesn’t have legs, it doesn’t have a sustained voice, it doesn’t have the power to make the owners develop and implement real changes, at least not yet.
Putting it another way, this controversy won’t get the attention of owners in the same way the anthem controversy did, because the demographic that caused the league to run scared in 2017 seems to have no problem with four or fewer minority head coaches and one minority G.M.
If they did, things would change very quickly.