NFL leaders will review incentives to diversify hiring


Team owners are looking at ways to improve diversity and hire minorities that would fill the top leadership roles in the clubs. To that end, NFL Media’s Jim Trotter reports they will vote on a resolution to amend the so-called “Rooney Rule”.

The NFL association has never before rewarded teams for their hiring practices, but the proposed incentive suggests that the league needs to reconsider diversity and is disappointed with the information that the Rooney Rule in its current form does not give significant results.

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Under this resolution, reportedly, a team would move six spots from its third-round draft position before its second season with a hired minority coach. If that minority hire is a general manager, then the team would move up to 10 spots in the draft. Finally, if a team hires minorities on both positions – coaches and general managers would move up 16 spots. Also, there’s an incentive for a team not firing a minority head coach or GM after two seasons, because it would be rewarded with its fourth-round draft pick improving by five spots ahead of the third season.

NFL owners are meeting this coming Tuesday for their annual May league meeting and significant changes to the team hiring process are going to be discussed. The league would first reconsider to change its anti-tampering rules. Currently, if a team wants to interview another team’s assistant coach for a head coach position, the interview cannot be denied. However, if a team wants to interview an assistant for a position coach job, they can deny the interview. The league is looking to change that rule in order to avoid further misunderstandings and uncomfortable situations.

In the last years, the NFL has failed to improve diversity and openness in its leadership ranks. The Rooney Rule offered many solutions in order to improve interview opportunities, but it did not do much to improve the structural problems that have kept other coaches from advancing. The fact that the league is moving towards active lobbying in order to diversify hires gives an unpleasant impression about the structural setups in the league.

Currently, there are just two African-American quarterbacks coaches – Pep Hamilton with the LA Chargers and Marcus Brady with Indianapolis Colts. The quarterback coach has become a launching pad to head coaching positions. In the past three seasons, around 70% of the hired head coaches were either offensive coordinators or quarterbacks coaches at the professional or college level. Moreover, the incentives would also apply to any team that hires a woman into a leading role or personnel department, though currently there are few women aligned for positions in the NFL.

Stung by the widespread criticism, representatives from Workplace Diversity Committee along with Commissioner Roger Goodell proposed the set of changes that have to be approved by at least 24 of total 32 owners. Many of the measures were considered in February when the committee met at the draft scouting combine.

Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations stated that the system was bad and broken. There were many things that contributed to the final result and one of them was policy. A good policy is aligned with good results, and vice versa-bad policy would give bad results.

Starting the process is important, but the idea that teams being motivated enough to improve a draft pick or two will fundamentally change the hiring practices is short-sighted. Challenges with diversity can’t be solved in one drastic steps. There’s no question the NFL as a whole association has to put a lot of effort in order to provide authentic and equal hiring opportunities.