Virtual hiring interviews only until teams out of contention

By Barry Wilner

The NFL is allowing only virtual interviews of candidates for a variety of football jobs, including coach and general manager, until both teams have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Troy Vincent, who oversees the league’s football operations, believes that will make for more opportunities for a diverse collection of candidates.

“I sent a memo to the clubs talking about the initial interviews being virtual,” Vincent said Monday, “and it allows each of us on the interviewing and education side to actually engage with more people.”

The move is another adjustment during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was first reported by NFL Network.

In a wide-ranging conference call on diversity and inclusion in the NFL, Vincent stressed the importance of adhering to the spirit of the Rooney Rule that was enacted in 2003 to enhance opportunities for minorities to be considered for coaching positions. The rule has since been expanded to other jobs, including general managers and executives at the team and league level.

“We have learned and seen that there are interviews that take place and there is no way they are going to be hired,” Vincent said of what some have called token interviews to fulfill requirements of the Rooney Rule. “That is not where we want to be. The spirit of the tool was to potentially identify someone you may not be looking at, but it has to be legit, and I think that is where we got away. It starts with the people and the heart of the people.

“We have a lot of work to do. The facts are the facts, none of the sports leagues are doing this well. The mobility of Black men and women is poor. We have to look at what we are doing, and we have done a thorough examination of what works and what doesn’t work. Let’s be honest, we can go to every sport —diversity, we are not seeing what we all hoped for. We are still talking about women in this space, are you kidding me? This is almost 2021. The closer you get to the playing field, the least opportunities for women? Come on.”

The NFL recently expanded the Rooney Rule further with a resolution calling for draft picks as a reward to organizations for developing minority coaches and front office executives who become head coaches, general managers or team presidents for other clubs.

That’s one indication of progress in dealing with the issues of diversity and inclusion, said Dasha Smith, the NFL’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer.

“What I have seen is a real commitment and engagement,” she said. “The results will have to speak for themselves, of course. But certainly from ownership, a large percentage of owners, a real commitment and engagement from the clubs, whether it’s on the field or off the field positions. It feels that there is a different level of commit and urgency than we have seen in previous years.”

Currently, there are six minority head coaches among 32 such jobs, with two of them — Atlanta’s Raheem Morris and Houston’s Romeo Crennel — serving as interims. There are two minority general managers.

Vincent, a former player, president of the NFL Players Association, and a leader on the diversity front for more than two decades, sees efforts being made at every NFL level in all areas. That includes “marketing, legal, engineering, analytics, the science piece,” he said.

While that is encouraging, it’s also not quite the dynamic he seeks. A day when the Rooney Rule isn’t necessary should be the objective.

“When we are doing things for the right reasons,” Vincent said, “get to a place in society, in particular this industry, where we have good people … where we are making the right decision for the right reasons and don’t have to have these measures in place.

“By looking for the right people, you have to include everyone.”

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