(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
On Monday at the NFL Owners Meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., the league owners adopted a new rule that will require each of the 32 teams to hire a minority offensive assistant who will have regular and direct contact with the head coach and coordinators and be a part of formulating the weekly game plan. The move is directed to help increase more minority head coaches, as teams lately tend to hire offensive coordinators to head coach positions.
Prior to the new rule being announced, Mike Tomlin was asked this morning about ways the NFL can improve minority head coach hiring, and he wasn't very encouraged that much change will take place.
“I haven’t been in any discussions and no, I don’t have a level of confidence that would leave me to believe that things are going to be better,” Tomlin said. “I’m more of a show-me guy as opposed to a guy that sits around and talks about things.”
Tomlin is one of three Black head coaches in the NFL. Overall, there's just five minority head coaches in the league.
“The hiring itself," Tomlin said when asked how minority head coach hiring can be improved. "I think that we’ve pecked around the entire discussion and subject, and we’ve done a lot of beneficial things. But we’ve got to land the plane. We’ve got to hire capable candidates.”
Steelers president Art Rooney II, chairman of the league’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, thinks progress has been made across the league in minority hiring, but it just hasn't got to the head coach level.
“We’ve seen progress the last couple years,” Rooney said Monday during a press conference at the NFL owners meetings via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We’ve seen progress with minorities on the [general manager] level, in terms of the number of coordinators we’ve seen progress there. But, obviously, we’re still not seeing the kind of progress we’d like to see on the head-coaching front, so we’ve been focusing on that effort in helping to improve our process.”
Ultimately the hiring of a head coach falls on the owners, and there's just one minority owner in the NFL in Shan Khan of the Jaguars, who's from Pakistan. The rest are old white billionaires, some of whom are not very accepting of diversity or equality.
There's currently a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three teams over alleged racial discrimination in hiring practices, which was filled by Brian Flores soon after being fired by the Dolphins in January. After Flores was bypassed in the latest head coach hiring cycle, Tomlin hired Flores as the Steelers' senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach.
Flores called Tomlin looking for advice, and that's when Tomlin offered him a position with the Steelers, which was accepted two days later.
"I wanted to stay close to Brian when his legal issues started," Tomlin said at the NFL Owners Meetings on Sunday in Palm Beach, Fla. "I just didn’t want him to feel like he was on an island. From a coaching fraternity standpoint, I owed him that. ... I was in position to provide that."
The DEI Committee is also commitment to increasing diversity among ownership moving forward.
"We do have some minority owners in the league," said Rooney, "and John Stallworth happens to be one of them and part owner of the Steelers. In terms of a significant stake, we didn't put any number on that. Obviously, it's something where we're just starting to see some minority participation on some of these teams now. We expect that to grow, and we expect this statement hopefully will open the door at least for encouraging minorities to participate. I think there's more work to be done, no question about it, but the statement at least sends the message that the door is open, that we are encouraging minority participation.
"And we'll look at that as a positive in terms of the groups that are bidding on the teams, whether it's a franchise that's selling a majority, or if it's just a minority stake in the team. Either way, the door will be open to minority ownership."
I'm sure Tomlin has had in-depth conversations with Flores about the injustices in NFL minority head coach hiring. Tomlin expressed frustration last year about it, and it hasn't got any better. It got even worse, especially with Flores' lawsuit and claims that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 per loss to tank in 2019. I mean, how can you expect Tomlin to feel encouraged by the NFL's new rules to enhance minority head coach hiring? The past has shown that the owners just create loopholes and don't follow through.