For the first time since the Rooney Rule was passed, a head-coaching vacancy has emerged after March 1. The development exposed a loophole that easily could be exploited by a team that hopes to quickly and cleanly hire a non-minority coach, without taking the time to conduct the required interviews of at least two external minority candidates.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL is considering closing the loophole.
As applied to the resignation of Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, the league permitted the team to install defensive coordinator Todd Bowles as the head coach, without interviewing at any external minority candidates. Although the end result furthers the broader goals of the Rooney Rule by resulting in the hiring of another Black head coach, the process easily could be abused.
The fix would be simple. Because assistant coaches from other teams become off limits for head-coaching interviews as of March 1, a team with a vacancy arising on or after March 1 could name an interim coach from the current staff for the upcoming season and then conduct a full search after the season concludes.
It’s the right result, and it should be implemented before an owner realizes that a simple end run around the Rooney Rule is readily available.