FIRST, any talk about football ought to begin with a nod to the Seattle Seahawks, who are in Sunday’s playoff games.
But beyond Seattle’s welcome postseason excitement, attention should be focused on the plethora of head coach and general manager job openings created after this week’s rash of firings by the National Football League’s losing teams.
In all, seven head coaches and five general managers lost their jobs on Black Monday, the day after the regular football season has come to be known. Reverberations down the organizational charts will create job vacancies for offensive and defensive coordinators and other staff.
This is an opportunity to remember the Rooney Rule, the league’s own commitment to diversity and inclusion in pro football coaching. The 2003 rule, named for Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching and senior football operation jobs.
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This important prod toward diversity and inclusion does not tell teams whom to hire. Indeed, the Rooney Rule would not apply in cases where assistant coaches have already been promised the next head coach opening.
But it does level the playing field in an arena largely dominated by whites at the upper end.
Broadening the pipeline of coaching assistants who may one day rise to the ranks of head coach is critical as well. It helps that the Rooney Rule extends to all senior management positions within the NFL and includes all ethnic minorities.
The NFL had only two black head coaches and a poor history opening the doors to strong minority candidates when a scathing report about the league’s hiring practices led to the Rooney Rule. Some progress has been made.
Five head coaches are African American (Marvin Lewis, Mike Tomlin, Romeo Crennel, Lovie Smith, Leslie Frazier) and one, Ron Rivera, is Hispanic.
But six out of 32 jobs underscores the need for the Rooney Rule.