There were eight coaching changes in the National Football League during the past few weeks. It must be assumed in the absence of contrary evidence that each franchise’s owners made their choice based on who they believe has the best chance to take their team to the playoffs and Super Bowl.
The “problem” is, according to league’s human resource people (are those really full-time jobs?) and their eager supporters at the Associated Press and ESPN, all eight new coaches are white. As a result, barely four months after the league earned a “high diversity hiring grade” from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (“its third consecutive A grade on racial hiring and its first C-plus for gender hiring”), the “Rooney Rule,” which requires that teams interview at least one at least one minority candidate for head coaching and top managerial jobs, is not good enough (bolds are mine):
Jim Caldwell nearly went undefeated as a rookie coach in Indianapolis three years ago and he’s one win away from returning to the Super Bowl as an assistant with Baltimore.
Yet Caldwell didn’t get one interview for any of the eight coaching vacancies in the NFL this year.
“That’s almost impossible for me to comprehend,” John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation, told The Associated Press on Friday.
Eight teams hired new coaches and seven more filled general manager positions with the New York Jets completing their search by hiring John Idzik. None of those jobs went to a minority.
Now the league is considering revisions to the “Rooney Rule,” which mandates that teams must interview at least one minority candidate for front-office and head coaching jobs.
“While there has been full compliance with the interview requirements of the Rooney Rule and we wish the new head coaches and general managers much success, the hiring results this year have been unexpected and reflect a disappointing lack of diversity,” Robert Gulliver, the NFL’s executive vice president of human resources, said in a statement.
… “We feel very strongly there’s a need to extend the rule,” Wooten said. “I’m disappointed, but not discouraged because we have a plan of action. We’re putting it together right now and we’re going to present our thoughts and ideas to the league. We’ll be working together to make something happen.”
It’s hard to imagine how one would “extend” the Rooney Rule without making it more coercive.
As to Caldwell, the AP all too conveniently ignored the fact that his team went 2-14 last year when he was fired. The Colts were without star quarterback Peyton Manning, but the Washington Post’s Jena McGregor made a good point at the time of the firing: “a coach who can’t win without his star on the field reveals a lot about his leadership … Good leaders are able to put together a team that wins, at least sometimes, even when their best performers can’t play.” One could also argue that Caldwell’s most stellar season — his first — was largely a result of what he inherited from previous coach Tony Dungy.
AP also “somehow” forgot to tell readers that the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation’s Wooten is not exactly a disinterested observer given that the Foundation’s mission is to “work with the NFL to support a more diverse and inclusive league.” Additionally, it says that “We help the NFL to reach its full potential by helping it reach full participation.”
At ESPN Friday, hand-wringing and even anger were evident.
Adam Schefter said that “Some people might not like hearing, some people might like hearing it. But the league has definitely noticed this … I know a lot of people around the league are noticing this issue and are going to be addressing this issue.”
Stephen A. Smith wondered why African-American Lovie Smith, who was fired by the Chicago Bears (a move with which Smith agreed), didn’t land a job elsewhere — “I’m appalled. I’m disgusted. … seven (of the eight openings) will be first-time head coaches, and … Andy Reid (who is white) gets a head coaching job. … This is disgraceful. … this is the kind of stuff that makes people think that there are two sets of rules … It’s unconsciounable.” Skip Bayless, in his discussion with Smith, opined that “there are a lot of high-risk hires” among those who got jobs. Bayless believes that “college football should have a Rooney Rule” because the list of available and qualified minority candidates seemed lean.
Last night on SportsCenter, I heard (but couldn’t find the related video at ESPN’s site) former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefts coach Herm Edwards, who is African-American, say in essence that the Rooney Rule should be renamed, because the Rooney family would be ashamed about its lack of results this year.
As stated earlier, unless someone can demostrate otherwise, the default assumption has to be that owners picked the person who gives them the best chance to win. As to the lack of a pipeline of African-American candidates, something the NFL itself acknowledged, the people involved should be asking why, with the NFL and NCAA Division I football so highly populated with star African-American players, so few of those same players seem to take any interest in becoming coaches. The answers may not be comfortable, but until that situation changes, blaming owners who want to win won’t accomplish anything.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.