On Tuesday, league owners will try to get something done on the eyesore-of-the-NFL minority coach issue that continues to plague pro football. In a virtual league meeting, owners are expected to vote on the controversial issue of compensation for teams in the hiring of minority coaches. Only this time, the reward won’t go to the hiring team—an idea that was widely criticized and tabled by owners in the spring. This time, owners will vote on a plan to give a draft pick or picks to teams that develop a minority coach or GM who gets hired. Although I’m skeptical that the measure will appreciably increase the number of minority coaches and GMs, some high-placed NFL figures are confident the measure, 2020 Resolution JC-2A, will pass.
• A team losing an assistant coach who gets hired as a head coach, or a team losing a personnel executive to be a GM or primary football executive, will receive third-round Compensatory Picks in the following two drafts.
• A team losing both a minority personnel person to be a GM and an assistant coach to be a head coach—in the same year—would get three third-round picks, if they both last two years with their teams. A rarity, of course.
• This proposal has been vetted by three significant NFL committees, including the Workplace Diversity Committee and the Competition Committee, with widespread support that I’ve heard is close to unanimous.
• Roger Goodell very much wants to see something done on this issue, so he’s likely to push come Tuesday. (I doubt he’ll need to push hard.)
The upshot: Let’s say Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who is Black, is hired to be a head coach by one of the other 31 teams early in 2021. Kansas City would receive Compensatory Picks at the end of the third rounds of the 2021 and 2022 drafts, per the draft of the resolution, which reads: “The employer-club [losing a minority coach or GM] shall be eligible to receive this draft-choice compensation if the minority employee hired as a head coach or primary football executive has been employed by the [original team] for a minimum of two years.”
When the idea of the hiring team getting rewarded with a draft pick was broached earlier this year, it was criticized by minorities like Louis Riddick, who interviewed for the Giants GM job that went to Dave Gettleman three years ago. “If these policies are implemented,” Riddick told me in May, “the first day I walk into the building, I know people with that organization would wonder, Did he get this job because he’s the best man for the job, or Did he get it at least in part because it gives us a big break in the draft? On the first day of the job, that team would be undermining its own hire by injecting doubt in the minds of the people who work in the building.” So that idea died.
But Goodell and NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent still wanted to make teams work to reward the development of minority candidates. This 2020 Resolution JC-2A “establishes a system that incentivizes clubs to, and rewards them for, developing minority employees who move on to the primary football executive or head coach with other clubs.”
The intention of the rule is good, obviously. But, in 2021 parlance, rewarding the Chiefs for developing Bieniemy wouldn’t motivate the Jets to hire Bieniemy over, say, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. So I’m not sure if it’ll have any impact on increasing minority coaches. The push for minority coaches should theoretically be boosted come January when each team will be required to interview two minority candidates for a head-coaching job instead of one—and also a mandatory minority interview for each coordinator opening.
After I tweeted this story Saturday evening, I got two major reactions. One: Why would a team hire someone from a rival when the rival would get two good draft choices in return? Couldn’t that work both ways? If the Jets, say, hire Josh McDaniels, that would be wounding a hated rival by forcing Bill Belichick to find an offensive mind he trusts after employing McDaniels for 17 years. That would certainly be worth two late third-round picks. Plus, when you’re hiring the most important person (non-quarterback, at least) in your organization, the positivity of your next franchise leader certainly is worth more than the negativity of some other team getting two middling draft picks out of it. Two: Dumb idea. Teams should hire best man for the job, period, regardless of race. Well, of course. But the players in the NFL this year are approximately 75 percent minority (mostly Black); at the start of this year, Black head coaches comprised 9 percent of the league’s ranks (three of 32). It’s a big problem. The league continues to search for ways to fix it.