NFL wants to train more minorities for leadership positions

NEW ORLEANS -- The 2012-13 NFL season saw a staggering number of coaching firings and hirings that put a blemish on the league's diversity report card. Out of 15 vacancies this season -- eight head-coaching jobs and seven general manager positions -- white candidates filled them all. Also, two black coaches, Lovie Smith and Romeo Crennel, and one black general manager, Rod Graves, were fired.

Three black former coaches -- including Tony Dungy, the first black coach to win a Super Bowl -- say the NFL’s diversity hiring practice utilizing the Rooney Rule is broken. Some minority assistant coaches questioned if the rule was even being followed.

“This was obviously not the offseason the NFL wanted,” CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora said on the set of Eye on Football. “[The NFL] is going to expand the Rooney Rule this offseason. They’ll have it envelop coordinators as well as head coaches, as well as GMs and possibly even some other positions within a front office.

“The league also wants to work more with training guys, getting them maybe more ready for the process in some positions.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL is looking “to see what the next generation of the Rooney Rule is” and how the league can expand it.

Although expanding the Rooney Rule seems great in theory, it’s easier said than done. Shannon Sharpe, who played for Baltimore Ravens minority general manager Ozzie Newsome, commented that while expanding the Rooney Rule is a great idea it would still be tough to implement.

“When you have a league that’s 65, 70 percent African American, I think the coaching staff should be more reflective of that,” Sharpe said at a FlyWheel charity event at Super Bowl XLVII. “I understand to a certain degree it’s hard to tell a man that spends a million dollars or 1.5 million dollars who he should hire. Obviously it needs to be a comfort level.”

In order for front offices to gain a level of comfort in the skills of a minority candidate, Brian Westbrook, retired two-time Pro-Bowl running back, supports a development program for candidates.

“Minorities have talent just like everyone else and [the NFL] has to be willing to develop it and I think if they do that we won’t be facing the same problem,” Westbrook said. “Sometimes it’s just a boys club type of mentality and we have to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Currently only four of the league’s 32 teams have minority coaches, the lowest numbers the NFL has seen since the inception of the Rooney Rule in 2003, according to the watchdog group Fritz Pollard Alliance.

This is on the heels of a very diverse 2012 season where the NFL received an A grade on racial hiring practices on the 2012 NFL Racial and Gender Report Card done by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. Half of the 12 teams in the 2011-12 playoffs had either an African-American head coach or general manager according to the institute.

This offseason’s staggering hiring results forced the Fritz Pollard Alliance to implore the NFL to expand the Rooney Rule to apply to offensive and defensive coordinators.

“Increase the pool to coordinating positions because that’s where you really look to get a head coach, a guy who’s been in charge of the ball on one side or the other,” said Bill Cowher, former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach and current The NFL Today analyst. “[The NFL needs to] constantly tweak it to get the pool of candidates greater and I think we’ll have more in the position of head coaches.”

Having minorities in the front office is not just important for the sake of looking diverse but it also breeds a different type of player, which will breed a well-rounded league. If players see people who look like them in leadership positions, it’s possible they’ll aspire to become general managers and head coaches one day. If that happens, there could be a day when the Rooney Rule no longer needs to exist and the interview pool will be naturally dotted with diverse candidates.

“It’s almost like having a black president,” Westbrook said. “You’re like ‘Wow, we can get to that position.’ You can envision yourself in those positions.”

Do you think the NFL should train minorities for front office positions? Make your voice heard in the comment section below or on Twitter @NFLMondayQB . Also make sure to check out more Super Bowl XLVII photos on our Facebook and Instagram pages. You can also follow Adena Andrews on Twitter @adena_andrews.

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