It’s not technically ‘the offseason’ yet for the NFL. In fact, the conference finals haven’t even been played yet. Still, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been out of the mix for weeks, so it’s easy to feel that way. That’s why we’re talking in terms of the offseason, even though the season continues for a few more weeks.
And one of the biggest stories so far of this ‘offseason’ has been surrounding the latest hiring cycle for head coaches and, yet again, the lack of diversity present. Five head coaches were relieved of their duties since the start of the 2019 season, among them Carolina Panthers longtime leader Ron Rivera. He was the only minority among the five new hires. The others are mostly first-time head coaches: Matt Rhule, Joe Judge, Kevin Stefanski, and Mike McCarthy, the latter a very experienced head coach.
Between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the minority population among head coaches was halved, seeing Hue Jackson, Marvin Lewis, Todd Bowles, Steve Wilkes, and Vance Joseph all lose their jobs. Only Brian Flores was hired among the eight head coaching vacancies that were created.
Because of the reverse trends and other practices that have been observed in the process, advocates of the Rooney Rule have grown concerned, among them the son of the man after which the rule was named, Steelers president Art Rooney II. He reached out to the NFL Network to discuss the issue, and then addressed it again on Steeler Nation Radio recently.
“I think it’s not only the Rooney Rule” that needs to be revisited, he told Bob Labriola. “I think we have to look at all aspects of our diversity hiring program and look at it in terms of all levels of hiring coaches, as well as other positions in the clubs. Certainly the trend over the last few years has not been positive, and I think we can do better than what we have done recently”.
The Rooney Rule came into effect in 2003, and was created following, frankly, a coaching cycle similar to what we saw in 2018. Of note were the firings of Tony Dungy and Dennis Green that year. Only Dungy and Herman Edwards, at the time of the rule’s implementation, were employed as minority coaches/
“Initially when the Rooney Rule was passed, there was a period where there was a lot of positive development in terms of minority coaches being hired”, Rooney reminded, going up to seven in 2006, with the eight in 2018 being the most ever.
“And then that trend seemed to have reversed in recent years”, he went on. “So we need to try and understand what’s going on and figure out how we can do better, and if we need to tweak the Rooney Rule, or address other issues in terms of what’s going on at other levels of the development of coaches, I think we need to do that”.
There will only be four minority head coaches once again in 2020, those being Rivera, Mike Tomlin, Flores, and Anthony Lynn. Of the four, only Tomlin has been with his current employer for more than three years.