The new proposed changes to the Rooney Rule will give teams incentives for hiring minority candidates.
The Rooney Rule was put in place in 2003 with the intent to provide a better opportunity for minorities to receive head coaching and general manager positions. It requires teams to interview minority candidates for those positions. 17 years later, we are still lacking the improvement that the Rooney Rule intended. Currently, there are only four non-white head coaches and two non-white general managers. According to NFL.com’s Jim Trotter, the NFL will be proposing changes to the current Rooney Rule process at the virtual owners meeting next week.
Those changes include doubling the number of minorities interviewed, funneling the process down to coordinator positions, and not allowing teams to block assistant coaches from being interviewed between the end of the season and March 1st. However, the biggest change to the proposal is that the league will award draft compensation to the teams that hire a minority for a coordinator, head coach, or GM position. The compensation varies based on the positions hired, but none the less it allows a team to gain a strategic advantage by hiring a minority.
Compensating teams for hiring minorities may open up the thought that teams won’t be actually hiring the best candidate available if that candidate cannot provide any incentive. Understandably, there is hypocrisy in being concerned about non-minorities being passed over for positions, but the fact is that a person should receive a position based on their credentials, not the color of their skin. Adding more interviews and funneling the process to the coordinator positions are perfect additions to this process and will help make it fairer but bribing teams to hire minorities will tarnish the credibility of the process. It would be a punishment for teams that did not hire a minority. What about the teams that do have a minority on their staff? Do they get compensated for the years that they have been on the staff? The Chiefs have had Eric Bieniemy on the staff since 2013 and has been the offensive coordinator since 2018. Would they benefit from this rule, or would it just be the team that finally offers him a head coaching position?
If the NFL owners were treating the hiring process fairly in the first place, then there would be no need for a policy like this to be put in place. I wrote an article on Bieniemy’s struggle to get a head coaching job and the issues with the current Rooney Rule back in January. The article discusses how the rule is not actually changing the mindset of owners to bring in minority candidates. This change, while it may actually bring in more candidates, still will not change the mindset of the owners. They’ll gladly accept the incentive to hire a minority, but it would be the equivalent of giving a child candy to stop misbehaving in the grocery store.
If Bieniemy were to take a head coaching position now, wouldn’t it seem that the only reason he was getting a job was that the team received draft compensation from it? Is that something that he or anyone in that position would want? Obviously, he wants to be a head coach and maybe he wants it bad enough to look past all of that. However, the message being sent by the league is not a good one and feels even more offensive than when owners were just passing up minorities in the first place.