clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

There’s so much wrong with the NFL’s proposed changes to the Rooney Rule

New, comments

The NFL might have meant well with their new proposition, but its proved to be a bad idea.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Washington Redskins Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images

It’s been well known for a while now that the NFL’s long-standing Rooney Rule hasn’t done much towards its purpose in recent history.

The Rooney Rule is an NFL policy requiring teams to interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a head coach, general manager, or other such position. However, minority hirings for such positions hit an all-time low this year since the instigation of the the rule.

The NFL has put a lot of time and money into raising awareness for social issues and other such issues, but has come under fire lately due to the lack of representation in their teams’ front office staffs.

The league apparently has a solution in mind, with NFL.com’s Jim Trotter reporting the league’s plans to vote on a new proposition regarding racial issues.

Trotter’s article covered the proposition in more detail:

If a team hires a minority head coach, that team, in the draft preceding the coach’s second season, would move up six spots from where it is slotted to pick in the third round. A team would jump 10 spots under the same scenario for hiring a person of color as its primary football executive, a position more commonly known as general manager.

If a team were to fill both positions with diverse candidates in the same year, that club could jump 16 spots — six for the coach, 10 for the GM — and potentially move from the top of the third round to the middle of the second round. Another incentive: a team’s fourth-round pick would climb five spots in the draft preceding the coach’s or GM’s third year if he is still with the team. That is considered significant because Steve Wilks and Vance Joseph, two of the four African-American head coaches hired since 2017, were fired after one and two seasons, respectively.

If a minority assistant left to become a coordinator elsewhere, his former club would receive a fifth-round compensatory pick. And if a person of color leaves to become a head coach or general manager, his previous team would receive a third-round compensatory pick.

One final provision: Any team that hires a person of color as its quarterbacks coach would receive a compensatory pick at the end of the fourth round if it retains that employee beyond one season. The provision is an attempt to get a more diverse pool of coaches working with quarterbacks, since the trend of late is to hire head coaches with offensive experience — 24 of the past 33 hires have been from the offensive side of the ball — and it’s considered even more beneficial to have worked with quarterbacks. Currently there are only two African-American QB coaches in Pep Hamilton of the Chargers and Marcus Brady of the Colts.

In an attempt to increase representation in the NFL’s pool of coaches, the NFL took everything that was wrong with the Rooney Rule and made it much, much worse.

Fox Sports contributor Rob Parker summed up many of my thoughts perfectly.

Rewarding teams for hiring minorities is simply disrespectful. Assuming that bribery is necessary for the hiring of minority coaches seems to insinuate that such candidates can’t get hired on their own— will an asterisk have to be placed by every non-white hiring?

Whatever happened to the best-qualified individual getting the job?

The complicated rules of moving draft picks for different types of hiring reveals the ridiculous details of the clunky new idea, as if making decisions purely based on skin color was ever a good idea. It’s inevitable that teams will find ways to abuse the new rules to move up in the draft, and disrespect minorities even more than they were when the idea was first proposed.

Coaching hires should only be made to to improve, well, the coaching of the team. Not for any racial or draft ambitions.

Yes, it’s a simple math problem to see that the representation of African Americans in NFL coaching and administrative staffs is disproportionately lower than the 70% of players represented throughout the league.

But let’s focus on that for a second.

By the logic of the NFL’s proposed new rule, should the Carolina Panthers receive incentives for having Christian McCaffrey, one of the few white running backs in the NFL, on their roster? Should teams with black punters and kickers be able to move up in the third round? Should teams be punished for the fact that there is not one white cornerback in the entire league? Should the 49ers receive an extra draft pick for being one of the few teams with a female coach?

The answer should be no. This isn’t an attempt to say that all of these issues are exactly the same, but rather to show the faulty logic the NFL has put into their new proposition. If they go all-in on the new rule idea, what’s to stop them from attempting to balance the uneven racial numbers at every other position in the NFL?

The notion of underlying racism in various places throughout the NFL has proved to be a difficult issue to deal with. Take, for instance, the controversial Deshaun Watson story last week. Watson, a black quarterback, was taken after Mitchell Trubisky, a white quarterback, in the 2017 NFL Draft. As any NFL fan would know, Trubisky’s career with the Bears has turned into a massive first-round bust, while Watson has developed into one of the better players at the position in the NFL.

Doug Williams, a former Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Redskins, was quoted as saying that if Watson was white, he would have been taken earlier, sparking a massive debate on Twitter.

Fox Sports Radio host Doug Gottlieb took to the social media platform to condemn the the assumption that the “…league evaluates a QB on race in 2020,” which prompted a response from Watson himself.

Watson appeared to have strong evidence the Chicago Bears’ racism, or at least a flawed scouting department, until Rich Eisen, a popular radio host, broke the news that Watson appeared to be lying.

It wasn’t over yet, however, as Quincy Avery proved an interesting point defending Watson.

So what happened?

We’ll never know for sure, as there are far too many layers to the story. Did the Bears perform their due diligence with Watson and mess up in the scouting process, or was there a racial element involved?

Thankfully, the NFL has a common-sense, obvious way to punish racism and/or bad scouting - and its completely objective.

Its as simple as the Bears and Mitchell Trubisky have been terrible, while the Deshaun Watson-led Texans have had a successful run since they drafted the Clemson quarterback.

So how does that tie in to the polarizing minority coach debate in the NFL?

Eric Bieniemy, the Chief’s offensive coordinator who is believed by many to be the league’s top minority candidate, hasn’t yet been hired as a head coach for seemingly no reason at all. He’s constantly fielded one of the best offenses in the entire league, but has been snubbed from a chance to lead a team on his own.

All of the teams that had a chance to hire Bieniemy, racists or not, were forced to watch him brilliantly coach his team to a Super Bowl victory, while all the others sat at home.

Enforcing perfect racial equality in the NFL is a pipe dream, unfortunately, as it’s never clear why exactly a team made a certain decision.

Maybe the answer is as simple as bad choices resulting in bad seasons.

Racism is obviously a terrible thing, and while the NFL’s attempts at stopping it could be considered admirable, their attempts at fixing the problem might just make it worse.

Thankfully, the new proposal wasn’t all bad, as a ridiculous NFL rule that has long been hindering all coaching hires might finally be removed.

The belief internally is the numbers can be reversed by removing some of the barriers that have hindered minority mobility, such as teams blocking assistants from interviewing for coordinator positions elsewhere. Many owners view coordinator experience as essential for first-time head coaches, but currently Eric Bieniemy in Kansas City and Byron Leftwich in Tampa Bay are the only minority coordinators on offense.

Under the proposed resolution, clubs would be prohibited from the end of the regular season to March 1 from denying an assistant coach the opportunity to interview with a new team for a ”bona fide” coordinator position on offense, defense or special teams. Any dispute about the legitimacy of the position would be heard by the commissioner, and his determination would be ”final, binding and not subject to further review.”

The possible removal of that rule might help open up the hiring process for many successful coordinators and positional coaches, and might do the most to help up the numbers of minority hirings in the NFL.

NFL owners will meet and vote on the proposal at some point, with 24 out of 32 votes required for it to pass. It remains to be seen how any owners feel about the proposed rule.

Besides a single bright spot in the new proposal, the possible amendments to the Rooney Rule are blatantly disrespectful, poorly-planned, and seemingly devoid of common sense.