KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Less than six months since Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL is “not where we want to be” in its record of hiring minority head coaches, the league took a step toward addressing that issue.
The NFL this week announced policies aimed at enhancing job opportunities for minorities and women — starting with the so-called Rooney Rule.
The league will now require teams to interview at least two outside minority candidates for any head-coaching opening (that number had previously been one), and at least one minority candidate for any vacant coordinator’s position.
“The NFL is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, which I believe is critical to our continued success,” Goodell said in a league-issued statement. “While we have seen positive strides in our coaching ranks over the years aided by the Rooney Rule, we recognize, after the last two seasons, that we can and must do more.”
Teams also must now interview one external minority candidate for senior football operations and general manager jobs. And the NFL front office and teams are responsible for including minority and/or female applicants for all senior-level jobs, including the position of team president.
For the first time since the Rooney Rule was created in 2002, the mandate now applies to a wide range of executive positions outside of football operations, including communications, finance, human resources, sales and security.
The last league-wide hiring period for head coaches resulted in just one minority head coach being hired: Ron Rivera in Washington. Rivera, Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers and Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins are the only current minority head coaches in the 32-team NFL.
Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has been widely regarded as a top candidate for head-coaching jobs. But despite having the public endorsement of Chiefs coach Andy Reid and interviewing for at least seven known openings over the past two years, Bieniemy is still searching for his first job as a head coach in the NFL.
Bieniemy didn’t address the new changes to the Rooney Rule when asked about them during a Tuesday Zoom call.
“My overall reaction is going to remain the same,” he said. “I am blessed and fortunate to be placed in this opportunity, to be given this situation.
“One thing, as a coach, you always want to be judged based upon your own merit. At the end of the day, the best coach is going to be hired. So, that’s what I do. I coach football, but when it’s all said and done with, I can’t control all the controllables.”
Whether this week’s tweaking of the Rooney Rule might help Bieniemy land a head-coaching job during the league’s next hiring cycle remains to be seen. But the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator isn’t concentrating on what could happen in the future.
Instead, he said he’s determined to do his part in making sure the Chiefs are ready to defend their Super Bowl title once the league allows all teams to return to the field in today’s pandemic environment.
“I have a job to do,” Bieniemy said. “We’re focused on what we need to get better at, at this particular time, and what’s going to make us the best team when we have an opportunity to hit the ground running.”
In addition to the Rooney Rule changes, the league this week altered its anti-tampering policies. Teams are now prohibited from blocking certain executives from interviewing for assistant GM jobs; the NFL also now prohibits teams from denying an assistant coach the opportunity to interview for another team’s vacant coordinator’s job.
Bieniemy expressed support for those changes.
“I think that’s huge across the board, regardless of skin color,” Bieniemy said. “It doesn’t make a difference. Now, you get an opportunity to interview the best football coach for that particular position. …
“(A)ll this discussion being brought to the table just opened up different doors for many different people. … Yes, I am happy that was passed so those guys can have an opportunity.”
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