May 19, 2020 - Sports

NFL moves to expand Rooney Rule to coordinator interviews

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Data: Pro Football Reference; Photos: Getty; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The NFL is expanding the Rooney Rule, effective immediately, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports.

What's happening: The rule, which was established in 2003, has required teams to interview at least one minority candidate for any head coaching vacancy. Now, teams must interview at least two external minority candidates for any head coaching vacancy and one minority candidate for any coordinator job.

Why it matters: While doubling the number of required minority head-coaching candidates is significant, adding a requirement for coordinator jobs could have an even greater impact, as it addresses the pipeline problem that the previous iteration of the Rooney Rule never did.

  • Since 2009, nearly 40% of head coaches hired in the NFL were offensive coordinators prior to their appointment, the most of any feeder position.
  • During that same span, 91% of those hired as offensive coordinators were white, according to a recent study by the Global Sport and Education Lab at Arizona State University.

By the numbers: 70.1% of NFL players are non-white, but only 12.5% of regular-season games in 2019 were coached by people of color — and the same four head coaches are in place for 2020: Brian Flores (Dolphins), Ron Rivera (Redskins), Anthony Lynn (Chargers) and Mike Tomlin (Steelers).

The big picture: The NFL is not alone in its struggles to diversify its most senior positions. As of January, there were just four black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, per NYT.

  • The root of the problem appears to be unconscious bias: People make decisions to hire people that they can relate to and feel comfortable around.
  • In the NFL, 32 of 34 owners are white, and when Panthers owner David Tepper hired Matt Rhule in January, one of the first things he said was that he reminded him of himself.

Go deeper: NFL hosts coaching summit to strengthen diversity

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Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University's student cente on June 5. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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