NFL wants to tackle diversity issues with data system in Rooney Rule expansion


Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) shakes hands with Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter of the LIV Super Bowl on February 2, 2020 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Rich Graessle | Icon Sportswire | Getty Imagaes

The National Football League has completed the first phase of its Rooney Rule expansion, which officials hope will help catch up by improving diversity across the league.

After the 2019 season, only one of five vacant head coaching positions was filled by a minority coach – Ron Rivera in Washington. According to research done since 2009 by Arizona State University, the NFL has never had more than eight minority head coaches, while white coaches accounted for up to 28 (in the 2013-14 season).

Among the changes the team owners approved on Tuesday is the increase in the number of candidates interviewing for head coaching positions. The teams will now have to speak with two minority candidates. They must also speak with at least one minority candidate for all coordinator and managerial positions.

But one of the elements that received a backlash was a plan to encourage minorities to hire with draft choices. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the owners have decided to “table” the idea for further discussion.

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy told CNBC that most of the “good” changes from the proposal had not received “much visibility” while conversations around the temporary incentives were on the rise. honor.

Diversity data

A key element of the plan includes retrieving detailed information about each position throughout each team’s business and football operations.

Dasha Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the NFL, formed the idea of ​​collecting “various diversity data” such as age, gender, race and “generations”, which Smith says can be collected to project “how many people are going to think about retiring.” “

“We don’t just collect information about minorities. We collect information on… overall demographics for every position you can imagine in a club and in the league office. “

NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said the system would be “universal” and follow the parameters of diversity.

“This has never happened before – from the league office in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles and the 32 clubs. Centralized data collection so that we can really measure it, ”he said.

The system will also track former minority coaches who have not received any other offers of head coaching. Harrison mentioned former head coaches like former Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks and former Buca Bay Tampa coach Raheem Morris, before asking, “How are they revamped after their first opportunity to be in a major leadership role? “

Dungy used New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick as an example. Before leading the Patriots to dominance, Belichick’s first stint as head coach came with the Cleveland Browns in 1991.

“They didn’t win,” said Dungy of the Browns, who finished 36-44 under Belichick’s tenure. “But he had to bounce back and had another opportunity and ended up winning six Super Bowls. This should be an object lesson for all of us. But it doesn’t always happen that way. “

The question of “mobility”

Vincent said the new data could help tackle the “mobility” problem of the NFL, where teams rarely promote minorities in head coaching positions.

“To dive deeper and look at the nuances, you have to look at the mobility,” said Dr. Keith Harrison, an associate professor at the University of Central Florida who helps compile the university’s NFL diversity report. The 2019 score has been downgraded to B-less overall.

Harrison said the new NFL data will help teams identify emerging talent.

“This will be the key to the fact that it is not anecdotal and it is not hearsay. It’s scientific, it’s practiced, and it’s going to be systemic, “he said.

Dungy said team owners tend to watch playoff teams and offensive coordinators when filling the head coach slots. The Arizona State report found that 40% of coach recruitments since 2009 have come from attacking backgrounds – and 91% of coordinators since then have been white.

But at the moment, there are only two minority offensive coordinators in the NFL, including Eric Bieniemy of the Kansas City Chiefs. Bieniemy helped the Chiefs win the Super Bowl LIV, but he was ignored for three jobs he interviewed, including the Carolina Panthers, who instead hired Matt Rhule – a college coach with no experience in the NFL.

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II noted that minorities did not have the opportunity to develop offense.

“We talked about it and looked for ways to make sure that we develop minority coaches,” he said.

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy speaks at the 2019 Athletes in Action / Bart Starr Awards at the 32nd Annual Super Bowl Breakfast during Super Bowl LIII Week February 2, 2019 at Marriott Marquis in Atlanta , GA.

Rich Graessle | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

Despite all the good efforts, the owners are essential to effect real change.

The NFL can collect tons of diversity data. It can implement new systems and even get organizations like the Fritz Pollard Alliance to support its efforts.

But will the owners use the data or ignore it? Will they follow the letter of the changes while thinking of new ways to get around them – what Dungy called the “spirit” of the Rooney rule?

“We have discovered that you cannot legislate,” said Dungy. “I think we have to show the owners that it will be good for them, that it will be good for business. “

“If you broaden your horizons, think outside the box, you can improve your team,” continued Dungy. “You can be more successful. In a way, this is what we need to get across. “


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