Some Black assistants question whether they got real interviews for head-coaching jobs

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In 2003, when the NFL established the Rooney Rule that requires a minority candidate to be interviewed for every head-coaching vacancy, there were three Black head coaches. In 2021, there are also three Black head coaches.

Some Black assistant coaches see a lack of progress as evidence that the Rooney Rule is being treated by owners as an opportunity to check a box, rather than a tool that will help them promote diversity in the NFL.

On a segment of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that will air tonight, Colts defensive backs coach David Overstreet says Black coaches are treated as if they get head-coaching interviews not because they’re deserving, but because the Rooney Rule is a step that owners know they have to complete before they hire the coach they wanted all along.

“You see the Black man and you’re like, ‘Oh, he’s the Rooney. That’s why he’s interviewing. He’s the Rooney. He’s not getting interviewed because he’s the qualified coach, he’s getting interviewed because they have to hit that quota.’ Now you have the weight of the entire race on your shoulders. You have to be representative of everybody. That’s not how it should be,” Overstreet said.

Ray Horton had four different stints as a defensive coordinator but was never a head coach. He interviewed for several head-coaching vacancies but doesn’t know how many of those teams really considered him a viable candidate, and how many were just using him to get their Rooney Rule interview out of the way.

“When I walk in, my first thought is, Is this a real interview?” Horton said.

That’s a valid concern for Black coaches to raise, and the NFL has a long way to go to prove the Rooney Rule is really working as intended.

21 responses to “Some Black assistants question whether they got real interviews for head-coaching jobs

  1. If you are going into an interview with those concerns, maybe you shouldn’t be a head coach. I wonder if Dungy, Tomlin, Herm Edwards or others felt that way but were hired. If you feel that strongly about it, Maybe you should go the Colin Kaepernick route instead.

  2. Of course they didn’t. Nor did some of the white assistants. The GM/Owner had already chosen their guy. Unless one of the others completely wows him, they are going with their guy. It’s business.

  3. All the more reason to get rid of the Rooney Rule. Great idea, horrible implementation. Interview the best candidates based on their merit first and foremost. The rule doesn’t work when the people getting interviewed can’t even trust that they’re getting legit chances. The more we qualify everything by ethnicity the longer the disparity will continue.

  4. I can find a similar situation all over the NFL, regardless of ethnicity.

    Byron Leftwich –> Kellen Moore
    Patrick Graham –> Matt Eberflus
    Eric Bienemy –> Brian Daboll

    Does not even include coordinators that were coaches:

    Leslie Frazier –> Dennis Allen
    Todd Bowles –> Jack Del Rio
    Vance Joesph –> Steve Spagnulo
    Raheem Morris –> Mike Pettine (he was fired though).

  5. Although the Rooney rule was designed to create a more equitable opportunity for head coaches and senior positions. Some teams are bypassing this rule by sham interviews. It is so obvious, it is sickening. I think the fix is rather simple. The Rooney rule should go beyond just interviewing head coaches and executives of color, the league should incentivize the teams who actually hire head coaches and executives of color by earning additional draft picks if they stay with the team for a certain period of time. For example a minimum of 2 years earns a team a 3rd round comp pick. 3 years plus a second. ETC.

  6. Ok but what’s the alternative? No Rooney rule? Or that you force teams to hire a minority? This gets your foot in the door for an interview and name mentioned for possible future interviews.

  7. Everyone knows this is true. The Rooney Rule may have been well-intentioned, but it doesn’t help. In fact, it’s harmful. It forces teams to at least consider candidates based on factors other than merit. Combined with social/societal pressure to increase diversity, teams inevitably end up hiring candidates (on occasion) who may not be the best qualified. Those coaches eventually get fired, and everyone loses their minds. It seems to me that if the NFL wants to promote more black coaches, they should double-down on recruiting for the coaching pipeline, encouraging players to get into coaching as their careers wind down.

  8. The follow up question is whether many of them deserved that interview to begin with. Some did, some didn’t, and the Rooney rule helps neither of them.
    Tokenism doesn’t work in professional sports, only performance matters regardless of colour.

  9. While it was well intentioned, the Rooney Rule is virtually useless. It may help in rare cases, but most teams will just give lip service to Black coaches.

    I think that there are two ways to approach this. Just like with quarterbacks, it took the league over 80 years to accept Black QBs. Sure there was one or two along the way, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that teams started hiring Black QBs. Now, there are 10 starting QBs in the NFL that are Black.

    The other way, to make it happen more quickly, is to get some Black NFL owners. When it comes downto it, the owners are the ones that make the decision.

  10. alonestartexan says:
    February 23, 2021 at 12:52 pm

    Wait until someone is hired ONLY so their team gets draft picks..

    That’s what the Texans did…

  11. The most qualified person gets the job – what part of this is so darn difficult to understand? If you think that race/ethnicity REALLY matters to owners and GMs when hiring, then you are living in a fantasy world

  12. Hire the best men for the job. Don’t go through a box checking exercise for the sake of some dumb rule. We should be past this, I know that we’re not, but forcing an interview process helps no one.

  13. Getting in the door onto team coaching staffs and getting to Coordinator positions is the key. Most coordinators that shine and don’t have 3 to 5 run-ins with the police get head coaching jobs eventually. There are exceptions like Greg Roman. Guys like Ray Rhodes and Hue Jackson got 2nd jobs that they did not earn with their 1st job.

  14. Now this, if you are going in with an attitude that shows you feel this way, maybe the interviewers see this….or maybe you weren’t the best candidate…

  15. All these people see is race. How many white guys interviewed and didn’t get the job? These owners have a general idea of who they are looking for. The obsession with race in todays society is out of control.

  16. When given the opportunity to hire a head coach, HOF GM Ozzie Newsome hired white head coaches. Ozzie is hardly a racist nor were the owners. Ozzie went with who he thought was going to be the best H C for the Raven at that time!

  17. “You see the Black man and you’re like, ‘Oh, he’s the Rooney. That’s why he’s interviewing. He’s the Rooney. He’s not getting interviewed because he’s the qualified coach, he’s getting interviewed because they have to hit that quota.’ Now you have the weight of the entire race on your shoulders. You have to be representative of everybody. That’s not how it should be,” Overstreet said.

    ——————————————————————————————

    Read that, now read it again. This is the reason to get rid of the rule! Get rid of the rule and these good coaches that get interviews will know it’s because they are a good coach and not because of the color of their skin! READ IT! This rule isn’t helping them, it is making them second guess, hell putting more stress and pressure on them. You want a guy to have confidence, that have faith in what he is doing, to have the it factor! Let them earn it because of their ability not because of their skin.

    Until we don’t see color this world will never get better.

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