One of the aspects about the NFL that never changes is that teams will fire their head coaches every year. The majority of organizations don’t have a very long leash when it comes to whom they put in charge, so if results are not shown early, changes are made. As a result, we continue to see anywhere between an eight and a quarter of the league’s teams in the market for hiring a new head coach.
With that comes the discussion about who is being hired. Are the failed coaches of past regimes being recycled? Are they being taken from new sources? And what is their demographic makeup? The Rooney Rule was formulated to address issues with the latter, designed to help facilitate diversity within the head coaching circuit.
Looking at it on a long arch, the previous iterations of the Rooney Rule have not been effective. I forget the exact numbers, but something like 12 head coaching positions have been filled over the past two hiring cycles, and two went to minority candidates, one of them being Ron Rivera, who was let go by the Carolina Panthers and then hired by the Washington Football Team.
Needless to say, the Rooney Rule is something that the Pittsburgh Steelers organization is passionate about, and president Art Rooney II sought to be the leading voice in calling for further tweaks to the rule this offseason, some of which we have already seen implemented, while others continue to be considered.
Head coach Mike Tomlin, is one of the four minority head coaches, the longest-tenured, and a member of committees involved in the issue, also takes the matter to heart, and he made his thoughts clear about where the league stands in this regard when he was asked about it yesterday on Good Morning Football.
“You know, succinctly, we just have to be better”, he told reporters. “Why sugarcoat it? There’s less than half the minority coaches in the NFL today than there was in 2007 when I got my job. And so from that perspective, it is a joke and it needs to be addressed. And I know that being on some of the committees and things that I’m on, I know that we’re working diligently to address it, but the bottom line is, it has to be reflected in the hiring. And I coach football, I don’t hire, and I acknowledge that. But I’ve also been in this league long enough to know that where we are right now is comical, although it’s not funny”.
Will the recent changes in the Rooney Rule yield the sort of results that the league is hopping to see during the next hiring cycle? That remains to be seen, but there is reason to be skeptical. The issues in the dearth of minority head coaches are multiple, and include a lack of representation of minority coaches in the primary positions that are sourced for new head coaching candidates, to it figures to be a years-long effort to really affect meaningful, longstanding change.