The National Football League has an interest in encouraging diversity in the hiring practices of their constituent teams, a conclusion that they reached many years ag that culminated in the formation of the Rooney Rule, named after former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, whose son Art II, the current owner of the team, continues to champion the rule.
Several times over the years, the league has advised the rule in the hopes of making it more effective. They tweaked it late last year. They remain unsatisfied with the results. Of seven head coach openings, two were filled by minority candidates, including one black candidate.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who has also been a champion of this issue, was recently featured on the subject during a segment on Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, an HBO Show. After the show aired, Tomlin spoke with Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for a follow-up discussion and shared further thoughts.
“I normally don’t talk publicly during the offseason, but this is a critical issue for usv”, he started out in telling the veteran journalist. “As important as this is for us in the NFL, it’s also important for us as a society. It deserves all the attention it gets”.
Heading into the 2021 season, five of the 32 head coaches in the league are minorities, with three being black. Mike Tomlin is by far the longest-tenured of the group. Ron Rivera, though previously holding a long head coaching stint with the Panthers, and Brian Flores were hired in 2019 and 2020, respectively. David Culley and Robert Saleh, both first-year head coaches, were hired this year.
While Tomlin said that the optimist in him says things will get better, he still can’t help but be perplexed by Eric Bieniemy, the very highly-regarded offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, has yet to land a head coaching opportunity.
“Every offensive coordinator Andy Reid has had in the last 20 years got a head job. One of those guys, Brad Childress, hired me in Minnesota in 2006. Now, Andy has the best offense he’s ever had and he can’t get a job?”, he said of Bieniemy.
Bieniemy was originally hired by the Chiefs in 2013 as their running backs coach and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2018, after Matt Nagy was hired by the Bears to be their head coach. Since then, Kansas City has been in the AFC Championship game every year, reaching the Super Bowl twice and winning the game once, consistently producing one of the top offenses in the league.
Nagy first entered the NFL in 2008 with the Philadelphia Eagles under Reid, but never rose above quality control coach until he followed Reid to Kansas City. He was named quarterbacks coach in 2013, the same year Bieniemy was hired, was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2016, and got a head coaching job two years later.