Just as poor on-field officiating confounds football fans, there’s a contingency of those who are confounded about the hiring process of NFL owners, and continue to question its fairness for its minority candidates.
The Rooney Rule is a NFL policy that requires the league’s teams to interview minority candidates, especially African Americans, for head coaching and senior football management positions.
The rule is named after the former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and former chairman of the league’s diversity committee, Dan Rooney.
It was established in 2003 after the firings of head coach Tony Dungy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dennis Green of the Minnesota Vikings in 2002. Dungy had a winning record. Green had just experienced his first losing season in ten years.
At the end of this season, the Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys and the Cleveland Browns fired their head coach and hired new ones, five of the 32 NFL teams. The Redskins were the only team that hired a minority head coach, Ron Rivera, who had been fired by the Panthers in early December. There are four minority NFL head coaches employed.
There were several Black candidates that were considered for head coaching jobs, but the process seemed precautionary, just going through the motions, with no sincerity in the process.
Former head coach Earl Caldwell and Marvin Lewis were interviewed for those five available positions along with Eric Bieniemy, the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator.
Caldwell, currently the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach for the Miami Dolphins, held head coaching positions with the Indianapolis Colts and the Detroit Lions, and has held various assistant coaching jobs around the league. He’s won two Super Bowls as an assistant with the Colts and with the Baltimore Ravens.
Lewis, a special advisor to the Arizona State Sun Devils, a college football team, was the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals for 15 years. He was the 2009 AP Coach of the Year.
Bieniemy has no NFL or college head coaching experience, but his success with the Chiefs as the OC earned him interviews with the Panthers, Giants and Browns.
In a television interview, Lewis said he thinks it’s good for minority candidates to get interviews to get the experience of the process. “But if we can just somehow open the process a bit more and provide more opportunity,” he stated.
Looking at it from an owner’s side, Lewis said, “This is somebody’s business. This is somebody’s franchise, and nobody’s going to tell them who to hire.”
When Caldwell was fired by general manager Bob Quinn, he explained that Caldwell was being let go because his 9–7 record didn’t meet the franchise’s expectations. But since his dismissal two seasons ago, Detroit has only won 9 games in the two combined seasons.