A lot has been made this NFL hiring cycle about the lack of minority head coaches getting jobs. Of the 32 teams, the only minority head coaches are Anthony Lynn, Mike Tomlin, Brian Flores and Ron Rivera, while candidates like Eric Bieniemy and Robert Saleh had some interviews but they amassed to nothing.
The truth is, there is no easy answer for how to get more opportunities for minority candidates but this article will make a few suggestions on how to do so. I would be remiss if I did not mention the “Rooney Rule” which is a rule that NFL teams must interview a minority candidate for open head coaching jobs. While it mandates that the team must interview minorities it does not order the teams to hire them.
So the question remains, what can be done to give minority candidates more opportunities?
The first suggestion is one that many have said, which is, mandate that the teams must interview more than one minority candidate. The more candidates that get interviewed, the better of a chance one of them will get the job. Sometimes a candidate goes through a round of interviews only to be hired the next off-season, so even if the minority candidate doesn’t get the job this time, getting an interview can help the next time.
The next idea is that the Rooney Rule should be extended to coordinator candidates as well as head coach candidates. Most head coaches come from the coordinator position, so if there are more minority coordinators, then there are more candidates to choose from. Additionally, it is especially important to make sure that minority candidates are offensive coordinators as many of the head coach hirings over the past few cycles have been from offensive coaches.
The next idea is more of a long-term plan as opposed to a quick fix. NFL teams should hire minority coaches for lower-level jobs like Offensive Quality Control positions. The Minnesota Vikings hired a few minority OQCs last season in Christian Jones and AC Patterson, other teams have also done this to give opportunities to young minority coaches. Jon Gruden and Ron Rivera started their NFL coaching career at this lower level starting position and have ascended to have long and distinguished head coaching careers.
Finally, many offensive coordinators were previously quarterback coaches. Most quarterback coaches at some point in their career played quarterback. Recently, more and more African American quarterbacks have been in the NFL and when their playing careers are done, there is a chance they’ll get jobs as quarterback coaches which will lead to becoming offensive coordinators which will lead to head coaching opportunities. Much like hiring minority OQCs, this is more of a long-term plan, but it can be beneficial. We have already seen former quarterback Byron Leftwich make his ascension from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a good season, he may join Bieniemy and Saleh in the interview circuit next off-season.
The fact remains, there is no simple answer. Additionally, there is not just one answer. The most important thing is to continue to have an open and honest dialogue about this and hope that something can be implemented to help this situation.