The Buffalo Bills are proposing to delay all teams’ interviews for coaching and front-office vacancies until after the conference championship games and all hirings until after the Super Bowl, according to the person with knowledge of the matter. That, too, is a concept that has been mentioned previously by league leaders but perhaps could gain more traction this offseason as the NFL continues to grapple with its minority hiring issues.
NFL owners are scheduled to meet remotely March 30-31 and could consider any rule-change proposals then. A proposal would have to be ratified by at least 24 of the 32 owners to be enacted. The annual league meeting in March usually is a large gathering with all owners, general managers and head coaches in attendance, but is being held virtually this year as the NFL makes a gradual return to more traditional operations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s not clear whether the league’s rulemaking competition committee will endorse either of the proposals. Teams annually submit proposals to the competition committee, and those forwarded to the owners with the backing of the competition committee generally have a better chance to be approved.
Successful onside kicks have become increasingly rare in the NFL since the league enacted safety-related rule changes on kickoffs before the 2018 season. The Eagles also submitted the fourth-and-15 proposal last year after it was submitted the previous year by the Denver Broncos. Under previous versions of the proposal, the onside kick would not have been eliminated but a team trailing late in a game would have had another option.
Under last year’s proposal, a team could have utilized the fourth-and-15 option up to twice in a game, whether trailing or not. If a team opted for it, the football would be placed at that team’s 25-yard line for what would amount to a fourth-and-15 play. If the team gets a first down on the play, it retains possession of the ball and its drive would continue under normal game conditions. If the team fails to get a first down, the opposing team would take possession of the ball at the play’s ending point.
Owners tabled the fourth-and-15 proposal last May, when it did not have enough votes for ratification, for reconsideration at another time.
“Rules like this take time. … This is a pretty major change, in giving the offense the ball on fourth and 15,” Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, the chairman of the competition committee, said then. “There’s a lot of things to talk through, and that’s what we did today.”
The Bills’ proposal comes after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during Super Bowl week that the league would look again at the possibility of delaying all hires of head coaches and GMs until after the Super Bowl.
The proposal by the Bills does not specifically address minority candidates. But there’s some thought that slowing the hiring process could aid the league’s diversity efforts.
Only one Black head coach was hired by an NFL team this offseason, David Culley by the Houston Texans. Culley joined the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and the Miami Dolphins’ Brian Flores as the league’s only Black coaches. There are five minority coaches after the New York Jets hired Robert Saleh this offseason. Washington hired Ron Rivera last offseason.
NFL teams hired three Black general managers this offseason — Martin Mayhew by the Washington Football Team, Brad Holmes by the Detroit Lions and Terry Fontenot by the Falcons. That more than doubled the number of Black GMs leaguewide. Previously, the NFL’s only Black general managers were the Dolphins’ Chris Grier and the Cleveland Browns’ Andrew Berry.
“It wasn’t what we expected, and it’s not what we expect going forward,” Goodell said in Tampa during Super Bowl week. “So for us, we want to continue to look and see what went right, what went wrong. That has to happen with individual discussions with candidates, both successful and unsuccessful candidates, [and] the clubs.”