Sometimes, you need to look at something twice.
I must admit that when I initially read the tweet below, that broke news that the NFL would be voting on a resolution that would improve a team’s draft position if they hired a person of color to be Head Coach or General Manager, I thought five things, almost in order: A) This is kinda clever and funny as a protest of the Rooney Rule. B) This is racially insensitive as a protest of the Rooney rule. C) This is tone deaf if real. D) It’s borderline racist. E) Wait…THIS IS REAL?
BREAKING: NFL owners will vote next week on a resolution that would improve a team's draft position if it hires a person of color as head coach or general manager, per sources. Currently there are only 2 black GMs & 4 HCs of color, matching 17-year low👇🏾 https://t.co/867umaUe4o
— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) May 15, 2020
This ridiculous, condescending, tone deaf resolution has since been “tabled”, presumably to be improved upon in the future. In it’s place, the following was approved:
The NFL is immediately instituting changes to the Rooney Rule, requiring clubs interview at least 2 external minority candidates for head coach openings and 1 minority candidate for any coordinator job, I’m told. That's on top of two resolutions up for vote @JimTrotter_NFL noted.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 18, 2020
On the face of it, it’s fine as an add-on, although I am sure we can all agree it won’t make much of a difference, but at the very least it will draw some attention to minority hiring practices in the NFL. So, how do we attempt to “fix” this problem? Well, first of all, you must agree that there is a problem. There are 2 Black GM’s and 4 Head Coach’s of color in the NFL, making for a 17 year low. People of color are underrepresented. That’s a problem. So what’s the issue? Racism? Can’t fix that. You can’t legislate tolerance. Especially when racial bias will be denied. In the end, the problem is not rampant racism among the owner’s ranks in the NFL. It’s the good ole boy network, or the simple fact that people tend to hire people that they more readily identify with.
What people of color need is an opportunity that for whatever reason, is harder to come by. So how do we increase opportunity? I have five ideas that can create an environment for minority candidates, where they will have a better chance at landing top NFL Jobs as Head Coach’s and General Managers.
1. Expand the Rooney Rule for Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Jobs.
Pretty straight forward. If you have a vacancy at OC/DC, you must comply with the Rooney rule and grant an interview to a minority candidate. This way, you are exposing minority candidates to the Jobs that are most likely to be in line for the top gigs.
The Web site fivethirtyeight wrote about this and had an instructive graph:
2. Only College Head Coaches, NFL Coordinators, and former NFL Coaches are eligible to interview for a Head Coach’ job.
Wait, this seems counter productive to the goal? No. As you create opportunities for minorities to become coordinators, they will populate the hiring pool and thereby fill coaching vacancies at a higher rate. It’s Math.
3. If you are fired as a Off./Def. Coordinator in the NFL, you are removed from the HC candidate and coordinator pool for one league year.
“This works as a scarlet letter and will hurt, more than help.” Disagree. This will break up the retread market that stifles the upward mobility of younger candidates. You are not preventing them from getting other jobs either, it’s just the titles that are not available to them for one league year. they can be hired as play callers, consultants, but cannot hold the title that includes them into the Head Coach pool.
"Professionally, my eventual desire is certainly to be a head coach… I'm going to keep working tirelessly until the day that happens.'' @fishsports talks with former Cowboys defensive coach Kris Richard on his next steps: https://t.co/EaqMJryc7U
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 5, 2020
4. Expand Internships for High School/College athletes.
Will the NCAA allow this? They better. They have no leverage to deny unpaid internships during the college offseason/ High School summer. The simple rule to use to avoid the inevitable hanky panky that will go on, is that these “interns” must not do their internship during a draft eligible year. Simple and easy as that. By exposing young minority athletes to the coaching ranks at an earlier age, it may plant the seeds to continue on this path if/when their football life doesn’t blossom into playing careers.
5. Expand post-retirement player coaching assistant participation by incentivizing/enhancing their pensions.
This is the foot in the door. These are not highly paid jobs, and in fact, will likely pay rather poorly, but this is the easiest of starts for a coaching career, available to all football retirees. These players can also be incentivized to participate by enhancing their pensions (when eligible). Sound weird? State governments and the federal government already do that for those that work past their retirement eligibility. This will seed the lowest rung of coaching staffs, and thereby create a feeder system for minority candidates.
These are simple fixes that don’t engage in mandates, but do increase opportunity for minority candidates by merely offering opportunity where none existed before. Football, like no other sport, enjoys using phrases such as “football family”, and “football life”. With these proposals, you are not merely creating a big tent, but encouraging your “football family” and football lifers” to fill it.
Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga) is one-third of the trio that does the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast.