Unsatisfied with the number of coaching and front offices vacancies that have been filled by minorities in recent years, the NFL is preparing to propose changes to the Rooney Rule. According to a report from NFL.com’s Jim Trotter, the league will propose those changes during the virtual owners meeting that is scheduled to take place next week.
At the moment, the Rooney Rule (named after former Steelers owner Dan Rooney) requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for any head coach or senior football operations position. Its purpose is ostensibly to ensure that minorities receive consideration for coaching and front office positions, but in the current NFL — which is more than 70 percent non-white — there are only four non-white head coaches and two non-white general managers. Additionally, three of the most recent 20 head coaching vacancies have been filled by coaches of color, including one of five during the 2020 offseason.
To incentivize teams to interview and hire more minority coaches and front offices members, the league is set to propose the following changes, per Trotter’s report:
- Double the number of candidate interviews required to fulfill the Rooney Rule. (i.e. teams must interview at least two minority candidates for any coaching or senior front office position.)
- Require the Rooney Rule to also apply to coordinator positions, in addition to the head coaching position.
- From the end of the regular season through March 1, disallow teams from blocking assistant coaches from interviewing with other teams for “bona fide” coordinator positions (i.e. offensive/defensive/special teams coordinator). Any dispute regarding the bona fides of such a position would be settled by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
- Award a fifth-round compensatory pick to any team whose minority assistant leaves to become a coordinator for another team.
- Award a third-round compensatory pick to any team minority coach or front office member leaves to become a head coach or general manager for another team.
- Award a fourth-round compensatory pick to any team that hires a person of color as its quarterbacks coach, if it retains that coach beyond one season.
- Any team that hires a minority head coach would move up six spots from its allocated third-round pick during the draft prior to that coach’s second season.
- Any team that hires a person of color as its senior football executive (i.e. general manager or president of football operations) would move up 10 spots in the third round during the draft prior to that executive’s second season.
- If the aforementioned coach and/or executive remains with the team for a third season, that team would move up five spots in the fourth round during the draft prior to that third season.
These changes are designed to allow more coaches and executives of color to flow into the pipelines from which recent NFL hires have come. NFL teams have tended to look at offensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches for head coaching jobs, for example, and there are simply not very many minorities in those positions at the moment. (There are currently only two non-white offensive coordinators and two non-white quarterbacks coaches.) Incentivizing teams to interview and hire minorities at those positions would deepen the candidate pool for head coaching positions in the future, and the same is true of football operations.
These changes would mark a major departure from the way the Rooney Rule has operated since its adoption in 2003, but major changes are needed because the rule has not been working as intended in recent seasons.