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NFL owners to vote on proposals aimed to help minority head coach, GM hires

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the 17-year existence of the Rooney Rule, the effectiveness of the policy has all been lost in the NFL. The total number of non-white head coaches and general managers left in the league can almost be counted on one hand.

In an effort to incentivize the hirings of more head coaches and general managers of color, NFL owners will vote on two proposals. One will remove the anti-tampering barrier that allows teams to block assistants from interviewing for coordinator positions. The other will enhance draft position to teams that make minority hires. This will take place during the virtual owner’s meetings on Tuesday.

NFL insider Jim Trotter was the first to report the news.

The first two rounds of the draft would not be altered with under this resolution. The third round, where compensatory picks begin to impact the draft order, will be where changes would occur.

Trotter explained that the hiring of a minority head coach would bump a team’s draft pick by six spots, a minority general manager (or top team executive) 10 spots, and both would result in an improvement of 16 spots.

If a team hires a minority head coach, that team, in the draft preceding the coach’s second season, would move up six spots from where it is slotted to pick in the third round. A team would jump 10 spots under the same scenario for hiring a person of color as its primary football executive, a position more commonly known as general manager.

If a team were to fill both positions with diverse candidates in the same year, that club could jump 16 spots — six for the coach, 10 for the GM — and potentially move from the top of the third round to the middle of the second round. Another incentive: a team’s fourth-round pick would climb five spots in the draft preceding the coach’s or GM’s third year if he is still with the team. That is considered significant because Steve Wilks and Vance Joseph, two of the four African-American head coaches hired since 2017, were fired after one and two seasons, respectively.

The firing of Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks back in 2019 is an interesting case study. On one hand, the franchise is trending in a positive direction with Wilks’ replacement Kliff Kingsbury running the show. But no matter how successful Kingsbury’s tenure ends up becoming, the termination of Wilks’ employement after just one season will be a notorious piece of the team’s history.

Since Wilks’ firing, 13 new head coaches have been hired. Only two of them are people of color, and one of them, Ron Rivera, had been a head coach for nine years. Brian Flores was the lone minority hire of a first-time head coach. But Flores was also a career defensive assistant.

The rise in offensive assistants advancing to head coaching opportunities has also worked against non-white candidates. With the removal of the anti-tampering rule, perhaps lower-level assistants of color can progress to offensive coordinator vacancies and enhance their chances of becoming eventual head coaches.

These propositions may be too radical to get approval from the league’s owners, but it’s an indicative sign that the league wants to improve equality where it counts.