Despite the existence of the "Rooney Rule," which requires league teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs, only one of the five recent head coaching vacancies was filled by a minority. The 2019 NFL racial and gender report card stated that NFL minority hiring is at its worst in the past 15 years, according to a recent story from ESPN's Kevin Siefert.
None of this sits well with Art Rooney II, the Steelers' president and chairman of the NFL's diversity workplace committee. Rooney, during an interview with NFL Network's Steve Wyche on Tuesday evening, stated that the committee will look into making changes to the Rooney Rule in an effort to fix the lack of recent minority hiring in the NFL.
"I think where we are right now is not where we want to be, not where we need to be, and we need to take a step back and look at what's happening with our hiring processes," Rooney said. "The first thing we'll do as part of our diversity committee is really review the past season's hiring cycle and make sure we understand what went on and talk to the people involved, both on the owner's side, management side, along as the people that were interviewed.
"I think we have to look at is back when the Rooney Rule was past and put into effect in 2003, there was a period there where we did see an increase in minority hiring at the head coach position. And I think over a period of time, there were 10 or 12 minority coaches hired. Since then, that trend seems to reserve itself, particularly in the past few years. So we need to study what's going on, and understand better what's going on and really decide how we improve the situation."
Rooney was asked if NFL teams should be required to interview more than one minority coach for an open position.
"We'll look at a lot of different things," Rooney responded. "This time last year, we made some changes to the Rooney Rule and we required the interview to come from somebody outside the organization because we didn't it to be an internal situation where somebody down the hall was called down to the office for an interview. We changed that rule last year. Obviously we have to look at what we can do differently now, perhaps even expand the Rooney Rule into some of the lower levels, perhaps the coordinator level, just to make sure that the minority opportunities are there."
Rooney also addressed the lack of minority coaches who were even considered for head coaching positions. Marvin Lewis, who interviewed for the Cowboys' previously vacant head coaching position (which was ultimately filled by Mike McCarthy), was just one of a hand full of minority coaches who interviewed for a head coaching position.
"I think in general, when you look at this year's process ... there just weren't many minorities in the process at all this year," Rooney said. "I'm not sure why that is, it doesn't need to be that way. We have about one-third of the coaches in the National Football League are from minority communities. That's really not a bad pipe line. The question is: Why aren't more of those people getting interviews? Why aren't more of those people advancing through the process. There is a lot of pieces that we have to look at, and we have a lot of work to do that."
As Lewis alluded toon ESPN's "Golic and Wingo", the issue goes starts at the NFL's entry level positions, which, according to Lewis, seldom go to qualified minorities. Rooney addressed that issue as well during his interview with Wyche.
"I think we need to look at what's happening really at all the levels of our coaching positions and understand what's happening," Rooney said. "There are some who have said that there aren't enough minority coaches on the offensive side of the ball and we're going through a trend now where offensive coaches are being hired. I don't know how much that really is a factor here. I think it's probably somewhat of a factor. One of the things we didn't to address that recently is to create a new fellowship program where about half of the teams in the league participated in that this year, where we created a minority coaching fellowship position specifically for the offensive side of the ball. We would like to see that expanded throughout the whole league this coming season and make sure that every team has such a position. There are things like that at the lower levels that we need to look at to see that people are receiving opportunities at all levels of the hiring tree."
Rooney was then informed of a recent report from the Fritz Pollard Alliance that stated that the NFL's minority hiring is currently down 15%, specifically at the executive level. While Rooney's franchise includes a diverse operational staff, he wants more NFL franchises to follow suit.
"There's no question that having a diversity plan in your hiring practices I think is really what every business in America is looking at now and there's a need to make progress on all fronts," Rooney said. "Certainly I would say, in the football world, there's really no excuse for not having a diverse pool of candidates in the hiring process really throughout the organization. There's a lot of people that want to work in the National Football League, from all walks of life, all parts of the country. I'm not sure there's not a good reason or an excuse that we shouldn't have one of the best diversity action plans of any businesses in the country."