The Rooney Rule needs revision

The Rooney Rule needs revision
January 16
09:17 2020

The Rooney Rule in the NFL has been in place since 2003. The rule was implemented to allow more minority coaching candidates the opportunity to interview for head coaching and senior football operation jobs, but after 17 years, we are no better off than we were in 2003.

Currently, there are only three black head coaches in the NFL. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers), Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers) and Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins) are the aforementioned head coaches.  

That is a horrible percentage, considering that more than 70% of the league is African American. The NFL owners have the right to hire whomever they want, but it seems they are intentionally going out of their way not to give opportunities to African Americans and I am not sure why.

Just this year, there were five head coaching positions that became available. So far, none of the head coaches hired are black. The Cleveland Browns are the only franchise still on the hunt for a head coach, but based on rumors of their top candidates, it’s not looking good that the position will be filled by an African American.

It is somewhat appalling that we are still having this conversation in 2020. Yes, there have been several teams that have hired a black head coach in the past, but not at the rate it needs to be. The Rooney Rule was well intentioned, it just has not had the desired affect we all thought it would.

Time after time, we see lesser qualified white assistant coaches and failed former white head coaches getting opportunities, while black assistants remain on the outside looking in. It seems the black assistants that have interviewed over the time the Rooney Rule has been implemented was nothing more than a dog and pony show.

The most glaring example this year was the hiring of Joe Judge as the new head coach for the New York Giants. Judge was the special teams and wide receivers’ coach for the New England Patriots before taking the Giants job. He was hired over Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who has orchestrated one of the most prolific offenses in the league over the past two years. Bieniemy played in the league for eight seasons and is well respected by coaches and players alike.

It is frustrating for me to see this because they always say the easiest route to becoming a head coach is becoming an offensive or defensive coordinator. If that’s the case, then why is it that the play caller of the most explosive offense in the league still does not have a head-coaching job? We all know why.

It has been said the Giants decided to go with Judge based on the recommendation from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and the presentation he gave to Giants general manager Dave Gettleman and owner John Mara. How do white assistants with lesser resumes than their black counterparts routinely get head coaching jobs?

Even former black head coaches weighed in on the topic. Former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said, “You keep beating your head up against the wall, but I would say, and again this is somebody’s business, this is somebody’s franchise, and nobody’s going to tell them who to hire. But if we can just somehow open the process a bit more and provide opportunity.”

I don’t like throwing around the race card because I feel it is used far too often, but in this case, it is clear and obvious that race is the main issue here. We suffered through this issue with the black quarterback; now we are going through the same thing for black head coaches.  

This is one of the many reasons why the NFL will continue to lag behind the NBA as far as being conscious of the issues in their league. There are eight black head coaches in the NBA and many front office executives. In many cases they are regarded as some of the best in the business.

I don’t foresee the NFL changing anytime soon. With it being the most popular sports league in the country, along with all but one owner being white, they don’t have a reason to change their practices. My hope is that these black assistants get an opportunity sooner rather than later. But only time will tell.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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