The NFL just saw a hiring process conclude that included nine teams in search of a new head coach. Of the nine openings, two went to minority candidates: Mike McDaniel (Dolphins) and Lovie Smith (Texans). McDaniel, who is multi-racial, and Smith join Ron Rivera, Robert Saleh and Mike Tomlin as the league’s only minority coaches.
Goodell was asked if the interview process is flawed and unfair to minority candidates, and, if so, what the league would do to try to address that.
“I think one of the things that we shouldn’t do is throw out any conclusions without really looking at that,” Goodell said. “I don’t think you take anything off the table until you’ve had people look at that, help us independently say, is there something flawed with our process? And if there is, what can we do to resolve that and fix that? And so, for me to sit here and say I know something, if I knew something was flawed with our process in any area, we would be addressing it, and we’ve made a lot of changes in the last few years to try to address things that we thought could be helpful.
“One of the big things that we’ve discussed and I think has been helpful in the process, was our database, and developing a database that had a tremendous amount of information in there for the clubs as they began the process. We’ve also looked at what aspects of the process we want to formulate through our policies. But that all has to be looked at, and what else we can do to make it better. And I don’t take anything off the table. If that’s something that I think outside experts will be helpful to us, in making sure that something we thought we were doing well, maybe we’re not doing so well, hopefully that’ll help us get to a better solution.”
In 2020, the NFL amended the Rooney Rule to stipulate teams must interview at least two minority candidates not associated with their own team for a head coaching vacancy. Also, one minority candidate has to be interviewed for coordinator positions as well as high-ranking positions in the front office, including the general manager role.
Goodell was asked at what point does the league begin to consider a potential overhaul of its hiring practices.
“You don’t take anything off the table so, if it requires an overhaul, you do it,” Goodell said. “If it requires changes in other areas, you do it. I think, obviously, we haven’t been successful to date so we’ve got to look at every one of those alternatives, and we’re going to have other people look at it independently, as well as with us, and bring those ideas.”
NFL Network’s Jim Trotter outlined to Goodell data that reflects the league’s struggles to hire Black people in key decision-making roles in team front offices, at the league level, within the newsroom at NFL Media and how 13 franchises have never hired a Black non-interim head coach.
“We look at the same numbers and they’re really part of the effort that, again, looking at how do we become more effective in our policies and procedures,” Goodell said. “We work really hard, we believe in diversity, we believe in it as a value, we believe it’s made us stronger, how people have come into the league who are diverse have been very successful and made us better and we just have to do a better job. Is there another thing that we can do to make sure we’re attracting that best talent here and making our league inclusive? If I had the answer right now, I would give it to ‘ya, I would’ve.’
“I think what we have to do is just continue and find and look and step back and say, ‘We’re not doing a good enough job here.’ We need to find better solutions and better outcomes and so, let’s find more effective policies, let’s make sure everyone understands, let’s make sure that we’re looking at diversity and, actually, incentivizing that for everybody in our building, including with compensation. Let’s make sure that when we’re dealing with vendors outside the building, we’re hiring diverse vendors and bringing them in and giving them an opportunity to succeed, just like we do with white vendors, or (in regard to) people of color, how can they come in and contribute to the NFL.
“So, I think it’s not a single answer … the single responsibility comes on all of us in the NFL, and we have to be the ones that make that change and we are the ones that have to make sure we bring diversity deeper into our NFL and make the NFL an inclusive and diverse organization, that allows everyone the opportunity to be successful.”
Goodell also said the league has been looking for diverse ownership candidates and he has personally met with businessman Byron Allen, who is Black and has expressed interesting in purchasing the Denver Broncos franchise. The Pat Bowlen Trust announced Feb. 1 that it is in the “beginning of a sale process” for the franchise.
“We would love to see a diverse owner of the team,” Goodell said, though he added there was no timetable on the sale and underscored that the Broncos were selling the team, “not the NFL.”