The NFL is continuing its tradition of not doing enough to promote diversity by doubling the Rooney Rule requirement to interview at least two external minority general manager/executive/coordinator candidates. Head coaching slots were already under this rule, but now, along with GM roles, must include at least one “in-person” interview with any such candidates.
Got all that?
Commissioner Roger Goodell, who reportedly has made $128 million over the past two years, said of the effort, (and I’m making this quote up here), “We thought, hey, if one is good why not two? I was at Burger King the other day and got a two for $5 chicken marinara, and I said to myself, if one chicken marinara is $4, and I get two for $5, that’s basically two for one. So that was the logic behind the move.”
This, like that last bit, is a complete joke.
With teams rushing to hire any young white guy who’s ever had a conversation with Bill Belichick or Sean McVay (like the MLB hiring young white guy with a statistics degree from an Ivy League school after Moneyball) the landscape is different, but largely the same. Out of 32 teams, there are three Black NFL head coaches and five Black general managers, which comes out to about 9 percent and 16 percent of the available positions.
The latest numbers I could find had the percentage of Black players in the league at 70 percent. I shouldn’t have to say there’s more to that disparity than mitigating factors, but you have to spell out things nowadays (like making sure you knew I made up that Goodell quote), so… R-A-C-I-S-M.
If you can’t play, coach; if you can’t coach, manage; if you can’t manage, own; if you can’t own, what can you do? White guys are holding onto their positions of power like white guys holding onto their positions of power.
The biggest hurdle — other than America’s systemic racism — is no one trusts it until they see it. That same, tired, dumb logic about Black QBs led to such takes as: “Lamar Jackson should play wide receiver.” You should play janitor. Ryan Tannehill played wide receiver half of his college career and no one asked him to run the route tree, yet he got drafted eighth; Lamar won the Heisman and fell to 32nd.
Let’s take that over to coaching now. Here’s our own Carron J. Phillips, back in September:
Super Bowl champions Eric Bieniemy and Byron Leftwich. The two Black OCs met in last year’s Big Game, Bieniemy’s second-straight trip with the Chiefs and Leftwich’s first with the Bucs. ... Bieniemy has been interviewed at least 13 times over the last few years and still hasn’t been offered a head coaching job, although he’s a vital part of the game’s most explosive offense.
Do y’all have to be slapped in the face with proof before trying something new? Don’t answer that. Black coaches and GMs are never going to succeed if you never give them an opportunity.
There’s no real consequences to breaking the rule because no team has ever been set back by a fine. If you start docking them real assets — a.k.a. draft picks and moolah — then you’ll get their attention. Goodell also works for the owners, so if they wanted to take it seriously they could.
My idea — not solution, idea… I’m not solving the unsolvable — would be to have the hiring process reflect the roster. So if 70 percent of your roster is Black, 70 percent of your candidates should be, as well. (Though, apparently Jon Gruden was already on his way to circumventing my proposal before, you know, getting axed for acting all, you know, racist.)
In this fantasy land where I’m running the NFL, the fine should be that your roster has to reflect your management — so be prepared because that 10 to 15 percent allocation goes quickly, and I don’t know of many white cornerbacks.
Increasing the number of required interviews won’t necessarily translate to more minority hires, but interviewing and talking to people who aren’t like you brings new perspective, new ideas and new options — and hopefully helps you avoid mistakes like Gruden.
This may be a clunky analogy, but since I’ve spent the past month or so on Zillow and driving around Chicago trying to find a place to live, it’s fresh in my mind. When you’re making a massive decision, it’s better to explore as many avenues as possible. It just is. Talk to everyone. See everything. It only increases the possibility of finding that perfect fit.
NFL teams seem to be merely entertaining the Rooney Rule and checking a box — well I guess now it’s two boxes — because they have to, and not because they value any semblance of diversity or inclusion.
In a league full of teams who’ve mastered the art of misguided and empty gestures to further equality, no one does it quite like management.