The NFL is considering implementing new rules that would award teams who hire minorities as head coaches and general managers by giving those franchises higher draft picks, on some occasions, much higher picks.
NFL owners will virtually hold their annual May league meeting on May 19, and one of the topics will be minority hiring, especially when it comes to general managers and head coaches. In 2003, the NFL instituted the Rooney Rule, which is named after former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who was a former chairman of the league's diversity committee. The rule requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for any head coach or senior football operations position.
Despite the Rooney Rule being in effect for nearly two decades, there are four non-white head coaches and two non-white general managers from the 32 franchises. "Two of the four African-American head coaches hired since 2017, were fired after one and two seasons, respectively," according to the NFL. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport found that 70% of NFL players are black.
In an effort to hire more non-white coaches and GMs, the NFL will reward teams who hire minorities for those positions. NFL Media reporter Jim Trotter outlined how the new rules for incentivizing minority hiring could work:
If a team hires a minority head coach, that team, in the draft preceding the coach's second season, would move up six spots from where it is slotted to pick in the third round. A team would jump 10 spots under the same scenario for hiring a person of color as its primary football executive, a position more commonly known as general manager.
If a team were to fill both positions with diverse candidates in the same year, that club could jump 16 spots — six for the coach, 10 for the GM — and potentially move from the top of the third round to the middle of the second round. Another incentive: a team's fourth-round pick would climb five spots in the draft preceding the coach's or GM's third year if he is still with the team.
Another potential rule change that the National Football League is reportedly exploring is that any team which "hires a person of color as its quarterbacks coach would receive a compensatory pick at the end of the fourth round if it retains that employee beyond one season." The NFL notes that there are currently "only two African-American QB coaches in Pep Hamilton of the Chargers and Marcus Brady of the Colts."
The league is also looking into awarding a fifth-round compensatory pick to any team that loses a minority assistant who then becomes a coordinator for another team.
"If a minority assistant left to become a coordinator elsewhere, his former club would receive a fifth-round compensatory pick," Trotter wrote of a potential rule change. "And if a person of color leaves to become a head coach or general manager, his previous team would receive a third-round compensatory pick."
The NFL is considering expanding the Rooney Rule by doubling the number of minority candidates a team must interview for head coach vacancies. The league may also extend the Rooney Rule to include coordinator positions.
"I think where we are right now, is not where we want to be, not where we need to be," Steelers owner Art Rooney II said in January. "We need to take a step back and look at what's happening with our hiring processes. The first thing we'll do as part of our diversity committee is really review this past season's hiring cycle and make sure we understand what went on and talk to the people involved both on the owners' side, management's side as well as the people that were interviewed."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hinted that the league wanted to increase minority hiring. "Clearly we are not where we want to be on this level," Goddell said right before Super Bowl LIV in Miami. "It's clear we need to change. We have already begun discussing those changes, what stages we can take next to determine better outcomes."