The hiring resolution, which calls for a pair of third-round draft choices to be awarded to any team that develops a minority candidate hired by another franchise as a head coach or general manager, is subject to approval by the NFL Players Association. It was developed by the league’s workplace diversity committee and came after a previous proposal to reward the franchise that hires a minority candidate was not enacted by the owners during a remote meeting in May.
“We have taken many steps in this area, particularly over the last year,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a conference call with reporters. “But we all recognize that we must do more to support development opportunities for minority coaches and all personnel.”
Only one minority head coach was hired last offseason: Ron Rivera by the Washington Football Team. The NFL has four minority head coaches: Rivera with Washington, Mike Tomlin with Pittsburgh, Brian Flores with Miami and Anthony Lynn with the Los Angeles Chargers. The league has two Black general managers: the Dolphins’ Chris Grier and Andrew Berry of the Cleveland Browns. No Black head coaches were hired last offseason, and many minority coaches were particularly upset that Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was passed over.
“This is an important initiative for the NFL,” Goodell said. “We’ve often said we don’t know if there’s one specific step that’s going to make the difference. … Our effort here is to continue to look at everything we’re doing, to try to improve our policies and our procedures, to encourage and get the results we want, which is more diversity and inclusion within our ranks."
The NFL took steps in May to bolster its minority hiring practices, including strengthening its Rooney Rule to require a team to interview at least two minority candidates from outside the organization, instead of one, for a head coaching vacancy. The league also formally applied the interviewing rule to coordinator positions.
But owners tabled a proposal in May under which a team could have moved up six spots in the third-round draft order by hiring a minority head coach and 10 spots by hiring a minority GM. League leaders said at the time they would reconsider the issue and attempt to come up with a better way to incentivize diversity in hiring.
Under the system approved Tuesday by the owners, the draft choices awarded to a team that develops a minority candidate hired by another franchise would come in the compensatory-picks stage at the end of the third round. If a single team loses minority candidates hired as both a head coach and GM elsewhere, it would receive third-round compensatory choices in the following three NFL drafts.
The minority candidate must have been with the team for at least two years with no break in employment and cannot have already been the team’s head coach or general manager for that team to be eligible for the draft-pick awards.
Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said the new measure is “part of the overall collection of things that we’re doing to try to increase mobility among, in particular, Black coaches and females … on the coaches and the GM front. I’m excited about that. I’m looking forward to seeing what this offseason [brings] in the hiring cycle.”
The playoff proposal was ratified unanimously by the owners, according to Goodell, after being put forth by the NFL’s competition committee. Now that it’s approved, the NFL will have 16 teams in the postseason field this season, up from 14, if regular season games with implications for the playoff race are canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and cannot be made up. Playoff spots would be based on teams’ winning percentages if all teams are unable to play all 16 regular season games.
The NFL’s first option, under the competition committee’s resolution, would be to add a Week 18 to the 17-week regular season to accommodate rescheduled games. If the canceled games still could not be made up that way, the 16-team playoff field would take effect. Eight teams in each conference would qualify for the postseason and no team would have a first-round playoff bye.
“We are committed to completing the season as scheduled,” Goodell said. “Today’s resolution was part of our contingency planning should it be needed.”
The owners eliminated a portion of the proposal that would have seeded the playoff teams based entirely on winning percentages, without guaranteeing a home playoff game to a division winner. So division winners would retain their home games.