On the Rooney Rule, NFL considers swapping punishment for reward

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When it comes to compliance with the Rooney Rule, the NFL has all but ruled out using a stick. So it may try a carrot instead.

By devising a proposed system that would reward teams for creating opportunities for minority coaching candidates via enhanced draft standing, the league is essentially admitting that its unwillingness to punish those who make a mockery of the letter and/or spirit of the Rooney Rule requires an approach based on creating an incentive for making personnel moves with race in mind. This proposed expansion of the Rooney Rules represents a major break from the standard that requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for a vacant job; the new approach, if adopted, actually gives teams a tangible benefit for hiring a minority candidate.

On one hand, this is what it has come to for the NFL. The owners individually, and thus collectively, often decide on the next coach or G.M. before the hiring cycle even commences. In most cases, the pre-ordained choice is a non-minority, making it difficult if not impossible for a viable minority candidate to have a fair chance at getting the job. If the owners simply aren’t going to walk the talk and if the league is going to look the other way when, for example, the Texans fire a white G.M. with the goal of hiring another white G.M. and give perfunctory interviews to a pair of non-white G.M. candidates to comply with the letter of the Rooney Rule before hiring no G.M. at all because they couldn’t get the white G.M. they wanted, the situation won’t change.

On the other hand, the proposal encourages owners to make decisions based on a legally protected characteristic. Race should never be an issue in a hiring decision, whatever the race of the person being hired. Although the litigation risk is low (no coach will trade his career in a 32-company industry for the right to sue), it’s wrong (and illegal) to make hiring decisions based in whole or in part on the race of the applicants. And yet the league’s proposed expansion of the Rooney Rule expressly encourages it.

The league’s lawyers are smart enough to spot these issues and to understand the risks, but the chronic failure of the Rooney Rule to naturally improve opportunities for minority coaches likely has caused them to choose the lesser of multiple evils. Again, if the league office isn’t willing to take action against those who treat the Rooney Rule as an exercise in checking a box, the only way to make things better is to create an artificial benefit for doing something more than merely talking to a minority candidate.

Making the proposal more problematic is the fact that the artificial benefit comes at the expense of other franchises, penalizing stability by giving teams in turmoil a license to leapfrog stable organizations that don’t fire their coaches every two or three or four years.  Put simply, teams that have a revolving door at the front of the facility will now have a way to cut the line as to teams that don’t.

There’s got to be a better way, a more fair and equitable way, to secure meaningful compliance with the Rooney Rule and to enhance minority hiring without giving teams a reward for making a hire based on race. The current proposal trivializes the issue, and it’s sure to have unintended consequences.

The mere fact that the league is considering such a strange approach reflects its frustration with the inability to coax more diverse hiring practices from its owners. Without a realistic threat of civil liability, the owners simply won’t do what they should do without giving them some external reason to do it.

In many ways, the mere consideration of an external incentive to lure owners to do something that they should be doing anyway becomes even more of an indictment of the situation than a jury verdict.

18 responses to “On the Rooney Rule, NFL considers swapping punishment for reward

  1. First off, I’m not sure it’s a good plan. That said, I hope they build safeguards in so teams can only use it say once in a 5 year period. I think horrible teams could take advantage and develop a short tearm stategy to collect picks.

  2. simple, end racism, of course we have been trying to do that for decades of not centuries, and it has gotten so much worse since I was a kid, so unfortunately there seemingly will always be a divide, no matter – even if we all become gray, then there will be something about eyes being too small or funny shaped earholes. for some reason the human race needs to have hate in its heart, maybe not all of us, but certainly a goodly portion, and it’s not just black and white, asians get jobbed too, even amongst themselves. The best thing we can do is strive to make others understand and and be better and more accepting humans. For all of our children I jope things will some day get better, but I am not holding my breath, in the meantime, this is a horrible idea

  3. Every argument for the Rooney Rule comes down to the fact that coaching staffs and the player population is demographically different.

    But only 25% of NFL head coaches have even been on an NFL roster, with a combined 1 Pro Bowl appearance between them. Can we stop pretending that playing the game at a high level has ANY relevance to the ability to coach it?

  4. This will belittle any minority coach that is hired. They themselves and their assistants and players will always think they were only hired for the draft pick. It will make it very hard to earn respect. Why not do something more like a job fair where all qualified candidates can go and talk to all the owners, so the owners get to know them and everyone has an equal opportunity to be seen?

  5. I’d make a mockery of that stupid Rooney Rule as well. No one is going to force me to hire who I don’t want to hire. Hire the best qualified or best fit for your company. If he’s black, so be it. If he’s white, so be it. Rooney Rule must go. There’s plenty of qualified minorities who want to be hired on merits and not for some stupid quota. Besides, all I’d have to do is hire the minority, get the picks, make the picks, and then fire that guy and get who I really want. LOL.

  6. This is another way the NFL is trying to thread the eye of a needle with a bull rope. Team owners are going to hire who they think will move their team forward no matter what race they are. For example, why should Al Davis Jr have interviewed anyone else for the Raiders head coaching position if he truly felt Gruden was who he felt gave him the best chance at success? No matter what your personal feelings were in regards to the hire Gruden is the coach Davis wanted and as the owner of the team he has every right to make that choice.

  7. “the Rooney Rule requires an approach based on creating an incentive for making personnel moves with race in mind”.

    “Race should never be an issue in a hiring decision, whatever the race of the person being hired”.

    A perfectly stated reason to remove the Rooney Rule. It has also been pointed out that the ends do not justify the means at this point since the current rule is not working as intended. Get rid of it and keep all hires free from racial politics.

  8. “I see no way in h3ll that this guy can coach my team to a Super Bowl, or, even a winning season. However, to jump a couple spots in the draft, I’ll hire him anyway.” Said no NFL team owner ever.

  9. stung4ever1983 says:
    May 16, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Every argument for the Rooney Rule comes down to the fact that coaching staffs and the player population is demographically different.

    But only 25% of NFL head coaches have even been on an NFL roster, with a combined 1 Pro Bowl appearance between them. Can we stop pretending that playing the game at a high level has ANY relevance to the ability to coach it?

    *********************************************************************************

    Arguments relating the coaching population to the player population are based on the assumption that the population of players serves as the applicant pool from which coaches are ultimately drawn, first as positional coaches, then coordinators, then HCs, etc. Thus, the demographics of coaching staffs should mirror those of players.

    If only 25% of head coaches have played in the NFL (and I’ve not verified that number), then perhaps a more appropriate comparison population would be college ball, as I’d assume far more than 25% of NFL head coaches played in college.

    Even if you use college football players as a comparison population, the demographic makeup of NFL coaching staffs, particularly head coaches, still winds up being far whiter than expected.

  10. You could give a team every first pick in the draft for the rest of eternity, it still doesn’t make it a good idea.

  11. As long as there are preordained coaching hires there will be discrimination and lack of opportunity.

  12. Southpaw79 says:
    May 16, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    A perfectly stated reason to remove the Rooney Rule. It has also been pointed out that the ends do not justify the means at this point since the current rule is not working as intended. Get rid of it and keep all hires free from racial politics.

    ***************************************************************************

    Except that the Rooney Rule does not affect who a team can hire. It affects who they have to interview, to broaden the scope of opportunity to access, but teams can still hire whoever they want. NFL fans really do not understand what the Rooney Rule is and what it is not.

  13. How is this even fair? What, we’re going to force teams to hire minority coaches even if they’re not good? This is a forced quota system. It has nothing to do with merit.

    It is another HORRIBLE IDEA in the long list of horrible ideas that have been forced on us by the Goodell Reign of Terror.

  14. J. Burton-Taube says:
    May 16, 2020 at 5:37 pm
    How is this even fair? What, we’re going to force teams to hire minority coaches even if they’re not good? This is a forced quota system. It has nothing to do with merit.

    ********************************************************************************

    Incentivizing teams to do something is not forcing them to do something, unless you’re trying to exaggerate a stance to make a false point.

    Also, where does it say anything about quota systems? Without fail, people against equal opportunity employment systems always bring up quota systems even when quotas have no part of it.

  15. 80% or more of NFL head coaches were college or NFL backup QBs. If you want more black head coaches you need more black backup Qbs

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