Analyzing The Rooney Rule After Historic NFL Black Coaching Purge

The effectiveness of the Rooney Rule has once again been called into question after the NFL’s Black Coaching purge saw five African-American coaches fired in 2018.

The rule was designed by The Fritz Pollard Alliance (FPA) and mandated by the league to provide minority coaching candidates with better opportunities to secure one of the 30 coveted head coaching gigs by forcing any team looking for a new head coach to interview at least one minority candidate.

In 2013, after no minorities were chosen to fill 15 head coaching and front office positions, the FPA had asked the NFL to expand the Rooney Rule to include coordinators, assistant head coaches and team presidents in an effort to increase the pool of potential minority candidates. For a while, the rule seemed to be incrementally working. At the beginning of this season, there was an all-time high of 8 minority head coaches. 

There was optimism that the NFL head coaching minority ranks would reach double-digits by 2020. Unfortunately, in a post-Colin Kaepernick world, this season showed that NFL owners are moving in the opposite direction

This year, the following Black head coaches were fired: Marvin Lewis (Bengals, 6-10), Vance Joseph (Broncos, 6-10), Todd Bowles (Jets, 4-12), Hue Jackson (Browns, 7-8) and Steve Wilks (Cardinals, 3-13).

Only Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Anthony Lynn (Chargers) remain.

The firing of Wilks in Arizona after only one season was particularly troubling. In the NFL, many coaches flop in their first year yet remain employed. Though the NFL has made significant strides in hiring Black head coaches over the last twenty years as the result of the Rooney Rule, the recent firings were sobering. 

The expulsions leave a total of seven head coaching positions to be filled and a plethora of candidates that includes former coaches, current college coaches, and coordinators hoping to hit the coaching jackpot.

As is often the case with Black head coaches, the ones that were previously fired are long shots to land a head coaching job with another team this season. They will all have to take a step back, while most will never get the opportunity again.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is the only hot coaching candidate right now and he probably won’t get hired away from KC this season. Although he’s had several interviews and was listed as a candidate for the Dolphins, Bengals, Jets and Tampa Bay Bucs, it doesn’t seem likely he’ll be hired. The knock on him is that he doesn’t call the plays, despite the fact that he has personally groomed Patrick Mahomes Jr. and designs the entire game plan for Sundays. 

Other strong coaching candidates being mentioned include New England Patriots 37-year-old DC Brian Flores and Vikings defensive coordinator guru George Edwards.

Last season, Edwards was added to the Fritz Pollard Alliance “Ready for NFL” list, highlighting minority candidates that the organization feels is capable of running an NFL team or front office. He’s being considered for the Vikings job and being mentioned as a legit candidate for the Tampa Bay Bucs gig. 

Flores has been mentioned as a candidate for the jobs in Miami and Denver.  Veteran head coach Jim Caldwell (the guy they recycle when NFL Black head coach numbers get low) was rumored to be a candidate for the Packers job but it seems he was a token consideration and the team has decided to go with 39-year-old, Titans OC MattLeFluer.

Recently fired Hue Jackson and Vance Joseph are rumored to be candidates for the Cincinnati Bengals job. 

Other qualified candidates that were submitted by Wooten and the FPA to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell include Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator Keith ArmstrongVikings DC George Edwards, the aforementioned Brian Flores, Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator (and former Vikings head coach) Leslie Frazier, Falcons assistant head coach Raheem Morris, Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard and Eagles assistant head coach Duce Staley.

In 2006, when Commissioner Goodell was hired, there were seven minority coaches and four minority general managers. Despite the extensive list of qualified Black candidates and a much deeper pipeline of minority coaching talent, today there are just three minority HCs and one minority GM (Chris Grier, Dolphins) after Ravens head honcho Ozzie Newsome retires.

Hot names of the past who never got a chance to be hired —  or even received a brief chance at the gig — are now almost forgotten. Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has interviewed for eight head coaching jobs over the last two years and he’s still on the grind.

Harold Goodwin was the Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator from 2013-17. He was a hot coaching candidate and interviewed for a ton of jobs over the past two seasons, but he’s not even coaching in the NFL right now. 

Guys like Frazier (four seasons as Vikings HC 2010-2013) and Raheem Morris (3 seasons as Tampa HC 2009-2011) have never gotten another head coaching job. Josh McDaniels, and his 11-17 head coaching record however, reportedly has his pick of the litter.

There’s no shortage of qualified African-American head coaches, coordinators or front office candidates. NFL owners aren’t willing to move the needle at the rate these guys deserve. I guess it’s back to the drawing board for the Fritz Pollard Alliance and the many qualified African-American coaches who continue to get ignored, short-hooked and excluded from plush leadership gigs in the NFL.

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