Paul Tagliabue was there when the work began.
He understands there is much more to be done when it comes to minority hiring in the NFL.
Commissioner when the Rooney Rule was written in 2003, Tagliabue saw the number of minority coaches rise to seven by the time he left office in 2006. It has since regressed to four, and that’s an obvious concern.
“I think there are two fundamental things needed,” Tagliabue told Peter King of NBC’s Football Morning in America. “There must be a pipeline of good candidates, and that pipeline must have first-hand, hands-on exposure to those who make the decisions to hire coaches.”
The league took a step in that direction last week by expanding the Rooney Rule to require that teams interview at least two external minority candidates for head coaching jobs, at least one minority candidate for any of the three coordinator positions, and at least one external minority candidate for the senior football operations or General Manager jobs. The league also expanded the rule to other executive position outside of the football operation, and removed team’s ability to block assistants from interviewing for coordinator jobs.
All of those steps were designed to provide more access to the process, which Tagliabue has seen to be beneficial.
When he took office in 1989, there were no minority coaches. Now, 18 of the 32 teams have hired at least one. He recalled a coaches panel at a 2000 owners meeting, which included a young Tony Dungy assistant named Herm Edwards. The following year, Edwards was hired by the Jets, and believed that his access to owners the year before was essential.
Tagliabue thinks more of that kind of exposure is critical, and suggested that each year, teams bring up-and-coming assistant coaches (not just minorities) in groups to meet and discuss topics with owners and G.M.s to increase familiarity.
“Another way to do that in the age of Zoom,” Tagliabue said, “would be to set up 20 top candidates on Zoom with GMs/presidents in the decision-making process.” Not all at once necessarily, but at different times of the year.”
While it seems a simple networking opportunity, it’s one that many candidates lack, at a time when the league is trying to figure out a process which they allowed to be broken.