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NFL Instituting Changes to Rooney Rule

In advance of Tuesday's virtual owners' meetings, the NFL will expand the Rooney Rule, which will now require additional interviews of minority candidates, according to Kevin Patra of NFL.com.

"NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Monday that the league will require clubs to interview at least two external minority candidates for head coaching openings and at least one minority candidate for any coordinator job, per sources informed of the decision," Patra writes.

"In addition, teams must interview one external minority candidate for senior football operations and general manager jobs. Teams and the NFL league office must also include minorities and/or female applicants for senior-level positions, including club president jobs."

The NFL is also considering two other changes in its hiring process for minority candidates. "The first proposal would end clubs' ability to block assistant coaches from interviewing for coordinator jobs with other teams," Patra writes. "The second is on a proposal that would provide teams enhanced draft stock for hiring minority candidates as head coaches or primary football executives."


30 comments, Last at 30 May 2020, 8:37pm

2 Agreed. The second is an…

Agreed. The second is an insult to the hiring process and a peak into the real motives behind all of this...for the sake of appearances. If you really want to fix the hiring of minorities, promise that every team helmed by a minority coordinator will be up 10 points to start the game. 20 if it's the head coach. 



3 You would think that NFL…

You would think that NFL coaching would be a meritocracy.


1. A system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement.


If it is not, and it needs a Rooney rule (and expanded one) then it means either of two things:

The NFL is right now discriminating against minorities and they are pushing for (positive) discrimination to solve this problem, instead of educating their executives (which would be the real problem).


The NFL is not discriminating against minority coaches and they are just virtue signaling.



4 You presume that the…

You presume that the executives in question would listen to any attempts at education, instead of digging their heels in and defending their actions (see for example, how many GM's/executives react when challenged on basically any other subject).  Sometimes you need a direct requirement to force change.

5 Also, who thinks NFL…

Also, who thinks NFL coaching is a meritocracy? Carolina had four Turners on its coaching staff last season. There's a very limited number of ways to break into the league and rise through the ranks, and a ton of those spots and time and attention are reserved for peoples' kids or friends.

6 What's interesting to me is…

What's interesting to me is that since the NFL is such a bottom-line business and coaching is such an important part of winning you would have to think that coaching positions would be filled in a meritocratic way. After all, playing positions are filled in this way, even to the point of ignoring serious character flaws/antisocial behavior as long as it doesn't affect the play on the field.

I won't presume to guess the degree to which hiring of coaches is based on merit, but I find it hard to believe that a team would hire a candidate whom they feel to be even slightly inferior because the candidate is somebody's buddy (or son). Now, they may let their comfort level with this sort of candidate hold undue sway over their thought process, but that's a really difficult thing to tease out.

10 I think it's much harder to…

I think it's much harder to identify a good football coach then a good football player and the people without a ton of football expertise have a huge influence on the process.  So you're more likely to get questionable(possibly discriminatory) heuristics used when hiring a coach instead of just looking at things like hey can this guy run fast?

Just look at quarterbacks.  That's a much harder position to scout then just about every other position on the field, and I don't think there's any question there was a lot of racial bias in football at all levels in assessing quarterbacks until very recently

14 I agree a lot with what joe…

I agree a lot with what joe says above about how biases can end up baked into how coaches are evaluated (or mis-evaluated). I also have no trouble believing that most coaches with family connections are perfectly competent at the entry-level jobs when they first get in the door. But since that's the pool of talent that's going to rise through the ranks, the fact that those coaches are over-represented at that level is going to be a problem even before you consider the potential for bias towards grooming them for the next level of jobs.

And at the end of the day, teams sometimes make hiring decisions that just completely strain the idea that they're looking for the absolute best talent. Brian Schottenheimer failed multiple times as an offensive coordinator with a miserable track record, including a disastrous one year stint where went "down" a level to college football, and yet he got another OC job in 2018. (And now that his QB is Russell Wilson, he's probably poised to get another one if he wants one after Seattle.)

18 I think that people probably…

I think that people probably think "oh, I'll just hire my son as a Tight Ends coach, it won't make much of a difference".  And that's probably true.  However, offensive coordinators get picked from the pool of position coaches, and the head coaches get picked from offensive coordinators.


So I think people probably innocently make decisions NOT based on the bottom-line for the low-level coaching positions, because it probably doesn't really make much of a difference to the bottom line. 

The league would probably end up with more minority head coaches if it just required each team to have at least 5 (or some other number) of minority coaches on its staff.  The qualified minorities will eventually filter to the top if they are good.

9 The irony is that the NFL's…

The irony is that the NFL's meritocratic rule is named after a man whose qualification for owning his team was being birthed from the correct Rooney in the proper order (he's also related by marriage to the similarly qualified owner of the Giants).

Now, that said, nepotism got Belichick into the league, too.

15 Yeah and the thing is, I'm…

Yeah and the thing is, I'm sure guys like Belichick probably credit a lot of their success to learning the game from a young age and growing up in the business. If you have the talent/mind/ability to take advantage of that, you can probably use it to help take yourself pretty far. There have just been a lot more Mike and Dave Shulas than Kyle Shanahans over the years.

16 Its not wrong to be 'the son…

Its not wrong to be 'the son of'. Without a doubt Belichick has a great mind, does his job well and works hard. He deserves and deserved his position.

It would be another thing if he became head coach just because he was a son-of.


19 Among companies or…

Among companies or institutions that employ more than a few people, there is no such thing as a meritocracy. The only people who think their company or field is a meritocracy are the ones who are at the top and whose success the "meritocracy" notion retroactively legitimizes. Furthermore, falsely believing one exists in a meritocracy is one of the key roadblocks to actual fairness in hiring, because a meritocracy cannot discriminate, so if certain types of people are not being hired, it must be their fault.

This is a huge issue in my particular field (physics and astrophysics in the US academic world)---people have a hard time being told that they didn't get where they are just because of how brilliant they are and how hard they worked.

20 I would only add the…

I would only add the following. I don't think any industry, including football, can cleanly measure performance well enough such that true meritocracy is ever achieved. In the end, imperfect humans make imperfect decisions based on the information they have and how costly it is to change those habits.

To address the nepotism comment above. The owner is allowing the Turners to bring in more turners. Schottenheimer was hired by Peter Carrol, who must have clearly known about Schottenheimer's track record in prior seasons. Why do they do so? It may be because there is some perceived value add they think these people are bringing. The Turners are likely committed to football so they think they are getting hard work along with a good mind(remember, there is a risk your smart hire won't be committed to the mundane tasks the job requires. I have seen plenty of that in my life). But also, when the costs of making a poor decision are not sufficiently high, then there is very little if any reason to update one's process.

I would also share some personal stories. I have interviewed candidates in data science. Interestingly, some of the candidates I thought struggled the most ended up doing the best. Conversely, I have also seen managers who would pass any technical interview you threw at them and could take their way out of a jam, but make for lousy managers in practice because those are not the skills you use on the job. Most data science tests still revolve around doing some inane coding test of algorithms. I know plenty(including myself) who struggle horribly in a timed pressure setting. And surprise surprise, what you do in an interview never actually is a thing in the actual job. 

All this to say, I am not a believer that top down interventions can undo these problems. Just because you tell an owner he now must interview two minority candidates instead of one doesn't undo the system itself. 

23 That goes double for…

That goes double for government or public service jobs. 

Of course, when you inject other criteria into hiring and promoting practices, the results sometimes get interesting.  In one of my former units, 8 out of 10 directors were women...in a unit that skewed slightly male.  More than one came in from the private sector or another agency with 0 experience as to what we were doing in order to improve demographic optics (Most of my bitterness has left me all these years later, but my 8 years working lead on a large interagency project with excellent reviews and outstanding performance metrics was somehow a far inferior candidate to oversee said directorate upon director's retirement than some dingbat hired from the outside with a PMP and XX chromosomes who was shitcanned within 60 days for gross incompetence, setting back deployment 18 months.).

I think I agree with Dungy here...sometimes we do ill-advised things for the best-intended reasons.  I'm glad tying draft compensation to upper-level hirings got tabled -- hopefully permanently.  I'm fine with the mandatory interview requirements, but additional carrots or sticks should come into play in getting minority candidtates into the entry levels.  Anecdotally, I think this is happening, as we're seeing more former players getting into coaching post-retirement.  I believe we'll see a small explosion of minority coordinators, HCs, GMs, and Personnel directors in 5-10 years time.  Hopefully, then, all of these diversity measures can go away.

7 "Teams and the NFL league…

"Teams and the NFL league office must also include minorities and/or female applicants for senior-level positions, including club president jobs."

Interesting, and technically-correct phrasing. I'm curious how the NFL bylaws define "minority."


I'm also curious if the Lions firing Caldwell (black) but hiring Patricia (special needs) was a negative or a net wash under the Rooney Rules.

22 Simple fact is most people…

Simple fact is most people are risk-averse.  It's easier to hire the comfy choice than the risky one.  You do the latter, you get a lot of criticism; you do the former you get "it's not your fault, how could you have known". Of course by the 5th hiring of Brian Schottenheimer, you really should have known. Except when he comes into interview, he knows what to say and how to say it and present it in a convincing manner.

On top of that people like to be around people who are like them.  Again it feels safe.  In general, the black people who get hired conform to white values.  Tony Dungy is a quietly spoken, Christian man.  He is not a Deion Sanders dressed in gold chains, spouting rap music and saying "my homies" loudly.

The hiring process in most businesses is about finding people who are risk free and look/sound/think the same as you. Remember there are white people like Mike Zimmer and Bruce Arians who struggled to get HC jobs because they have a different view on life - they challenge and take risks, they aren't willing to fit in so they don't come across as being "the same" in interviews.

24 Hiring process

I would also add to your last paragraph the following observation:

It seems to be in a football team's best interest to have everybody who make decisions related to overall team strategy on the same page (whether or not it includes the owner). In other words, the GM, and others who report to him, and the HC, and others who report to him, should have the same idea when trying to attract free agents, drafting, keeping/cutting players, how much they are worth, etc.

So, when an owner (presumably) hires the GM, and the GM hires/promotes the coach, etc.--it is beneficial in general that they are on the same page. It isn't beneficial that they agree on everything per se, but on the general outlook it is. Obviously, it is beneficial that the players fit into the schemes that the HC, OC, and DC want to implement as well.

In short, I believe that some guys "who struggled to get HC jobs because they have a different view on life" may be guys whose ideas/points of view on running the team did not line up with the owner or GM--thus they weren't a good fit at that time for that team.

Personal anecdote: I work with seniors and disabled persons. Both of these groups do not do good with lots of change. They don't do good with people whose emotions are constantly changing. They do very well with people who outwardly are very patient, understanding, and generally helpful. The maintenance man I hired 3 years ago is much more liked by all of them because of these characteristics than the previous one, who retired after 30 years. Both men are very competent, and have been friends for 20+ years. The current guy and I get along a lot better also--but it simply different personalities, not work quality. In other words, if they had both interviewed together, I probably would have hired the current guy--not because he was a better candidate(they are pretty equal overall), nor because he is a minority (I am not, past guy isn't, current guy is)--but because his temperament fits better with me and the people that we work with. I can see the same dynamic happening with a football team.

26 Yeah, I agree, people are…

Yeah, I agree, people are risk averse. 

I worked in businesses, and I sat on both sides of the table during job interviews; you don't hire or interview people based on their skin color or ethnic background. That's racism in pure form. 




28 But you don't need that to…

But you don't need that to happen for there to be discrimination. If certain people have an easier time getting to the job interview table, you can be as unbiased as you like and the results will still be biased.

Not to mention the possibility of unconscious bias; there have been studies that show that people who believe themselves unbiased will nevertheless rate two identical applications differently based on which one has a traditionally 'minority' name attached.

29 Racism is a thing you say?…

Racism is a thing you say? Yeah. I know. It's printed in our human DNA. 

I don't think at this level in football coaching anyone would be dismissed because of his 'name'.

Racism is bad. But the answer isn't 'more discrimination'.

27 Meritocracy

Americans both like the idea of non-discrimination and family businesses. There is a fundamental tension in between those. Farms, X and Sons auto shop, father and son law firms. Hire a cousin to work the counter of your convenience store? Or only hire by advertising and selecting randomly from qualified candidates so as to be sure to not discriminate? 

In the NFL it seems to be largely the exclusion of those outside family based on know-who, not know-how, especially born-to-who. But I don't think Kellen Winslow II or Jake Long got into the league based on who their parents were. The higher you go, the more likely know-who did it rather than know-how, ownership being the cherry on top of that.