NFL Tables Incentives for Minority Hiring, Alters Rooney Rule

Published: 5:37pm, May 19, 2020 EDT | Updated: 5:40pm, May 19, 2020 EDT

Written by Chris Kubala

In seemingly all of the major pro sports in North America, there continues to be a push to bring in more minorities into the positions of leadership. That means general managers, head coaches, coordinators and positions that have a major impact for teams, either through roster construction or on-field performance. It’s something that gets brought up fairly regularly but, to date, nothing has really come to fruition that has driven any kind of success as far as bringing more minorities into those spots.

Earlier this week, the NFL announced a concept where teams would be given an incentive for bringing on minority staff members. Under that concept, a team that made the move to hire a minority head coach would see their third-round pick move up six spots in the draft taking place after their first season in the job. By the same token, if a team made the move to put a minority into the top “football executive” role, better known as a GM, they would bump their third-round pick up 10 spots. That means if, say, the Rams were to bring in a minority head coach and GM in the same year, they could move up 16 spots in the third round. If the coach or GM stuck around for a second full year, the team would move up five slots with their fourth-round pick.

Teams also would have been able to receive compensatory picks should a minority coach or staff member end up being picked up by another team. For example, if Pep Hamilton, the current QB coach of the Colts, were to leave and take a job with another team, Indianapolis would net a fourth-round pick. If a minority assistant took a coordinator job somewhere else, a team would get a fifth-round compensatory pick. Should a minority assistant leave for a head-coaching or GM job, that would be bumped to a third-round selection.

Did you get all that? Good. Now forget it.

According to sources with the league, the owners have tabled the proposal for the time being as they continue to come up with a new concept for dealing with minority hires. At the moment, the owners will revisit the topic at a later time in an effort to come up with a better concept before voting on it. That doesn’t mean that all is lost regarding the efforts to try and improve the rate of minority hirings in the league, however.

The league did announce a change to the Rooney Rule, which was enacted in 2003. Under that premise, teams had to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching positions. With the revised rules, teams have to interview at least two minority candidates for head coaching vacancies, at least one minority candidate for a coordinator slot and one external candidate for front-office positions. Commissioner Roger Goodell stated that the league can and must do more in order to rectify the situation:

“While we have seen positive strides in our coaching ranks over the years aided by the Rooney Rule, we recognize, after the last two seasons, that we can and must do more. The policy changes made today are bold and demonstrate the commitment of our ownership to increase diversity in leadership positions throughout the league.”

It’s clear that the league has to be more aggressive when it comes to making minority hires. As it stands, only Byron Leftwich (Tampa Bay) and Eric Bienemy (Kansas City) are minority offensive coordinators. There are four head coaches that are minorities: Anthony Lynn of the Chargers, Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, Ron Rivera of the Redskins and Brian Flores of the Dolphins. There are just two minority GMs in the league: Chris Grier (Dolphins) and Andrew Berry (Browns) coming into this season. Of the last 20 head-coaching jobs to open up, only three have gone to minorities. That’s a 15 percent success rate. When you hit .150 in baseball, you’re either sent to the minors or find yourself out of a job.

Things have to change in order for the sport to be a bit more balanced. That’s something that is going to be a long-term plan as opposed to a short-term solution at this stage. There simply aren’t enough personnel in positions that would be feasible candidates to move up in order to fix things overnight. The Rooney Rule change is a step in the right direction but there is more work to be done at this point. We’ll have to see if the league comes back around to bolstering compensatory picks or not in the future. This is the first step in the proverbial journey of a thousand steps.