Art Rooney II: Incentivizing Rooney Rule ‘Requires More Discussion, More Thought’ Before It’s Revisited

Earlier in the offseason, it was reported that among the multiple changes the NFL was considering to the Rooney Rule was to provide incentives in the form of boosted third-round draft picks for teams who opted to hire a minority to a head coach or general manager position. Several other alterations were approved, but this one was tabled.

We did not revisit it at this meeting”, said Steelers president Art Rooney II, the son of the man after which the rule is named, and among the leading voices this offseason to enact the changes that we did see, including the removal of authority for teams to block position coaches from interviewing for coordinator positions.

The proposal that was tabled included teams receiving a third-round draft pick six spots higher after hiring a minority head coach, and 10 spots higher for a minority general manager. A team drafting in the early spots of the third round would move into the back end of the second round. Under the best-case scenario, a team drafting at the top of the third round having hired a minority general manager would go from drafting 65th to 55th.

While owners remained in favor of doing something in this vein, there was a strong and steady dissent within the NFL community, with prominent black coaches and former coaches including Eric Bieniemy, Tony Dungy, and Marvin Lewis voicing their concerns. Lewis went so far as to call it offensive.

The proposal was tabled, but Rooney made it pretty clear that it will likely undergo some serious revision before they consider it again. I suspect that it may shift from incentivizing the hiring of minorities to the compensation of losing minorities, e.g. a team will be awarded a draft pick if another team hires one of their minority coaches, after having helped to train that coach into a desirable candidate.

“I would say it requires more discussion, more thought, and there really wasn’t enough time between the last meeting and this meeting to do that justice”, Rooney said. “I think we’ll continue to discuss it in our Workplace Diversity Committee meeting and see if we can come up with some ideas that have some merit”.

There are still more owners meetings to take place this offseason before the regular season is set to begin, during which they can revisit the proposal and perhaps get something on the books in time for the next hiring cycle.

Currently, there are four minority head coaches and two minority general managers across all 32 teams. Additionally, there are a total of two minority offensive coordinators, which is the position through which the plurality of new head coaching hires have found their first head coaching jobs.

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