Not-so-breaking news: the NFL still has a diversity problem in the executive level and coaching ranks.
However, a new turn of events is an “expansion” of the Rooney Rule to spur more inclusion within the league.
New Rooney Rules
The change is that teams now must interview two external minority candidates for the general manager and executive vice president of football operations positions; this includes all coordinator positions (offense, defense, and special teams).
The #NFL is expanding the #RooneyRule. More opportunities to interview and additional diversity training are a small but positive step. https://t.co/dk2v0MjXBW
— National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches (@NCMFC1) October 28, 2021
The change widens the scope of possibility for those positions for minority candidates, as the former rule only required one diversity interview for those categories.
Clubs must also conduct an in-person interview with one external minority candidate for any head coaching or general manager position. However, all coordinator and assistant general manager positions can be interviewed virtually, according to the NFL.
According to the memo sent out by the NFL, clubs are allowed to interview a candidate for a head coaching position during the final two weeks of the regular season with the consent of the employee’s club.
Why The Rooney Rule?
The NFL began the league’s Diversity Committee in 2002. The committee’s creation was an attempt to create a more diverse workplace league-wide.
The NFL just sent a memo regarding updates to the Rooney Rule, and there’s another notable change for the upcoming hiring cycle: Clubs may now conduct virtual interviews with head coaching candidates during the last two weeks of the regular season, per sources.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 27, 2021
The committee, chaired by its namesake, Dan Rooney, implemented systems to force change and widen the field of available candidates for critical positions within the National Football League.
However, the idea would influence teams and other sports to consider all available and qualified applicants.
The recent additions to the rule are the latest since the league’s May 2020 changes. The NFL expanded the Rooney Rule then to include head coaching and coordinator positions. Teams were required to interview two external minority applicants for a head coaching job; and one external minority potential for a coordinator job.
Still, the fact remains that without the Rooney Rule and its expanded requirements, NFL clubs forced to enact diversity would not do so willingly.
The NFL was rocked by the email scandal between former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and former Washington Football Team executive Bruce Allen.
"People need to simply do the right thing without being required by rule to do something."@AmyTrask joins @AdamSchein to discuss the NFL planning enhancements to the Rooney Rule. pic.twitter.com/hXysOSjpAb
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) October 27, 2021
Gruden expressed his bigoted views towards National Football Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, which sent shock waves through the league.
The New York Times broke the story after reviewing emails that were part of the Washington Football Team’s workplace misconduct investigation.
Country Club Mentality
Gruden’s innermost thoughts ran the gamut from lamenting gay inclusion in the NFL via Michael Sam’s drafting to the St. Louis Rams in 2014; to labeling NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and some owners derogatory gay slurs.
It showcases the underbelly of the NFL. The league is still has a good old boys club mentality; after all, there is still only one minority owner.
Although there are just two female NFL referees, Maia Chaka and Sarah Thomas, ten NFL teams have never had a minority head coach.
Long Road Ahead
Currently, only five NFL teams of the 32 clubs in the league have a minority head coach. The Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Football Team, New York Jets, and Houston Texans.
A small step, but this new @NFL rule enhancement will help provide more opportunities for minorities to interview for top coaching jobs. #PreparePromoteProduce #JoinTheCoalitionhttps://t.co/NvDWe7rY8P
— National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches (@NCMFC1) October 27, 2021
However, only two of those coaches are Black; David Culley of the Texans and Super Bowl-winning Mike Tomlin of the Steelers. In 2009, at 36 years old, Tomlin became the youngest head coach ever to win the Super Bowl.
Recently, Tomlin had to check a media personality for insinuating that he would consider leaving the pros to become a college coach. Tomlin is one of the most successful NFL coaches in history.
The NFL has been taking L’s and seeking to rewrite its narrative on non-inclusion. The NFL partnership with Roc Nation to curate Super Bowl Halftime shows is a step. Also clubs are allowing players to have more of a voice on social justice issues.
However, the Rooney Rule additions highlight a league still grappling with change.