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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he is not satisfied with the current coaching hiring cycle one year after he pledged to “do something different” to improve it.
His disappointment over the lack of diversity in the head coaching hires came during his annual state-of-the-league address ahead of Super Bowl LV on Sunday.
Goodell: ‘Not the outcomes we wanted’
Only two minorities were hired for seven openings and star Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was notably passed over. In some cases, teams with openings didn’t even request to interview the coach heading to his second consecutive Super Bowl.
“They're not the outcomes we wanted, and we're committed more than ever to make sure we do that. But we want it to be a natural process,” Goodell said, via ESPN.
The New York Jets hired Robert Saleh, who is of Lebanese descent and the league’s first Muslim coach, and the Houston Texans hired David Culley, who is Black and taking the reins for the first time after 27 years as an assistant.
There are now five minority head coaches in the NFL out of 32 spots. Goodell said the ownership group has likely spent the most time on the issue of diversity in hiring and is committed to it.
Goodell: Diversity focus goes beyond coaching
That diversity extends beyond the head coaching ranks, Goodell said, though it grabs the most attention.
“It's much broader than just head coaches for us,” he said, via ESPN. “But head coaches is important. And we put a lot of our policies and focus on that this year. As you know, we had two minority coaches hired this year. But it wasn't what we expected, and it's not what we expect going forward.”
He pointed to “a lot of positives” in three new Black general managers. Washington hired Martin Mayhew, the Atlanta Falcons added Terry Fontenot and the Detroit Lions brought in Brad Holmes.
“There's a lot more diversity in the coordinator position also, and across the league,” he said, via ESPN. “But we're not satisfied. And we feel like we can do better, and we're going to.”
Diversity hiring issues a yearly discussion
Goodell’s remarks on diversity come a year after he addressed them in January 2020 by saying the league would have to “change and do something different.” It was at that state-of-the-league address he also told reporters the NFL is “clearly not where we want to be on this level.”
Saleh and Bieniemy were the prominent minority coordinators passed over for five openings. Only Ron Rivera, the longtime Carolina Panthers head coach, was hired by the Washington Football Team.
In November, the NFL unveiled a plan to boost diversity by using draft pick rewards for teams that lose their minority front office and coaching personnel to another team.
Issue frustrating for players
Roughly 70 percent of the NFL’s players are minority and the issue is frustrating for them, linebacker Wesley Woodyard said at the NFL Players Association’s news conference.
“We aspire to be head coaches. We want to be GMs. But if you have guys like Eric Bieniemy, who's been an NFL legend, who's done great things within his offense, with the team that he's on, going to back-to-back Super Bowls — that frustrates us as players.”
“There has to be a platform to where we can hold each other accountable, to where the conversation continues to keeps rolling, to where these GMs, these owners have no choice but to say, 'Hey, we have to seriously check ourselves because this is an issue that has been going on. We put this rule in 17 years ago, and there has not been any kind of change.”
The Rooney Rule was first adopted in 2003 and required teams with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least minority candidate. It has been added to in the years since, including a 2009 addition that it also apply to general managers and front office staff.
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