NFL owners on Tuesday will consider a proposal by which a team could improve its draft position by hiring a minority head coach or general manager.
The proposal, if enacted, would enable a team to move up six spots in the NFL draft’s third round for hiring a minority head coach, and 10 spots for hiring a minority GM, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The measure is being considered by the league following a coaching firing-and-hiring cycle in which only one minority head coach, Ron Rivera by the Washington Redskins, was hired. Four of the 32 NFL teams currently have minority head coaches: Rivera in Washington, Mike Tomlin with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Anthony Lynn with the Los Angeles Chargers and Brian Flores with the Miami Dolphins.
Some observers were particularly dismayed that Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was passed over for head coaching vacancies after helping to orchestrate the offense that carried the Chiefs to a Super Bowl title.
The league had no public comment Friday about the proposal. NFL leaders met in February in Indianapolis with representatives of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the diversity group that works closely with the NFL on its minority hiring practices, and others knowledgeable about the league’s diversity hiring. But according to Cyrus Mehri, the group’s co-founder, the NFL had not told the Fritz Pollard Alliance about the details of this proposal.
“It’s a reason for great hope because the stars are aligned for some positive steps forward,” Mehri said in a phone interview. “I think a lot of good things are going to happen.”
The Fritz Pollard Alliance, now led by former NFL general manager Rod Graves, said in January that the league needed to take tangible steps to address the issue.
“We are in a battle for social justice,” the group said then in a written statement. “The current system of hiring and promoting talent into the upper levels of NFL management is a flawed system. We cannot expect fairness if business remains status quo. Our focus must shift from counting emblematic victories each year to calling for measurable initiatives that support sustainable progress.”
Two NFL teams have minority general managers, the Dolphins’ Chris Grier and the Cleveland Browns’ Andrew Berry.
“Clearly we are not where we want to be on this level,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in January in Miami at his annual Super Bowl week state-of-the-league address and news conference. “We have a lot of work that’s gone into not only the Rooney Rule but our policies overall. It’s clear we need to change and do something different. There’s no reason to expect we’re going to have a different outcome next year without those kinds of changes.”
Previous NFL initiatives have focused on ensuring opportunities for minority candidates. Under the Rooney Rule – named for late Steelers owner Dan Rooney, the former chairman of the league’s workplace diversity committee – each NFL franchise with a head coaching vacancy must interview at least one minority candidate. The rule has been extended to other positions and tweaked over the years. But until this proposal, the NFL has not provided tangible incentives tied directly to the hiring of minority candidates.
“That kind of linking has been successful in other industries,” Mehri said Friday.
The upgrading of a team’s draft position would come in the spring following the new coach’s or GM’s first season. A team could move up 16 spots in the third round by hiring both a minority coach and a minority general manager. According to the NFL’s website, which first reported the proposal, a team also could improve its fourth-round draft position by five spots if the hired minority coach or minority GM is retained after two seasons and is entering a third season.
Owners are scheduled to speak Tuesday via video conference. They also are to be briefed then by Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, and are to consider some business matters, including a measure to raise each team’s debt ceiling from the current $350 million.