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In 2003, when the NFL established the Rooney Rule that requires a minority candidate to be interviewed for every head-coaching vacancy, there were three Black head coaches. In 2021, there are also three Black head coaches.
Some Black assistant coaches see a lack of progress as evidence that the Rooney Rule is being treated by owners as an opportunity to check a box, rather than a tool that will help them promote diversity in the NFL.
On a segment of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that will air tonight, Colts defensive backs coach David Overstreet says Black coaches are treated as if they get head-coaching interviews not because they’re deserving, but because the Rooney Rule is a step that owners know they have to complete before they hire the coach they wanted all along.
“You see the Black man and you’re like, ‘Oh, he’s the Rooney. That’s why he’s interviewing. He’s the Rooney. He’s not getting interviewed because he’s the qualified coach, he’s getting interviewed because they have to hit that quota.’ Now you have the weight of the entire race on your shoulders. You have to be representative of everybody. That’s not how it should be,” Overstreet said.
Ray Horton had four different stints as a defensive coordinator but was never a head coach. He interviewed for several head-coaching vacancies but doesn’t know how many of those teams really considered him a viable candidate, and how many were just using him to get their Rooney Rule interview out of the way.
“When I walk in, my first thought is, Is this a real interview?” Horton said.
That’s a valid concern for Black coaches to raise, and the NFL has a long way to go to prove the Rooney Rule is really working as intended.