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Viewpoint | The NFL has finally come clean on the coaching carousel

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It was perhaps the most legitimate hiring process the NFL has ever seen. As eight franchises scrambled to find new coaches, there were no procedural antics, no blatant bending of the rules, no hasty, ill-advised decisions.

For once, these billionaire toys functioned like serious organizations. Unfair practices usually spoil the merry-go-round, but most of the cries of injustice were about Bill Belichick, the austere conductor of the New England Patriots’ six-championship dynasty who couldn’t find a job after a 29-year record. -38 over the last four seasons. . The rest involved a Belichick protégé, Mike Vrabel, a coach who came on the market after two losing seasons and friction with Tennessee Titans general manager Ran Carthon.

In other words, nothing unfair happened.

Capitulation to Belichickian behavior is now undoubtedly outdated.

With a quarter of the league’s 32 coaching positions open, the stakes couldn’t have been higher, and the 2024 hiring period ended with encouraging results. Of the eight recruits, half are men of color: three black coaches (Raheem Morris, Antonio Pierce And Jerod Mayo) and a Mexican American (Dave Canales). But the quest for greater diversity is not limited to race, ethnicity and gender. It’s about minimizing groupthink and expanding imitative minds so that there is room for new people with new ideas – regardless of their identity – to be the leaders of a game that has tends to become easily obsolete despite its immense popularity.

Five of the eight new coaches have a defensive background, challenging the tired notion that teams now benefit from being led by offensive gurus. The youth movement continued with six of these coaches under the age of 50, including three who have yet to celebrate their 40th birthday. And some surprise hires, like the Titans selection Brian Callahan and the Carolina Panthers turning to Canales, suggested that teams were thinking more about organizational fit and alignment than familiar names who probably wouldn’t earn much more than a press conference.

At least half of these coaches are doomed to failure, but that’s just the unfortunate nature of the sport. Even if this happens, it in no way diminishes the value of a fair and open-minded process.

The point is opportunity. It always has been. Aspiring head coaches want general managers, presidents and owners to actually study their league. Once you eliminate the guesswork, conduct real interviews, and act with intentionality in finding overlooked talent, you no longer harm inclusion.

NFL head coaching hiring cycle shows signs of improving diversity

All it took was the NFL more than a century of systemic racismgenerations of traumatized coaches, multiple improvements to the Rooney Rule, draft compensation for the development of minority coaches and leaders, multiple other policies, a racial discrimination lawsuit led by Brian Flores and intense public scrutiny to take a decisive step in the right direction. No single factor contributed to the sport nearly doubling its minority representation in a single hiring period, bringing the number of coaches to a record nine coaches of color next season. And this is the most positive sign.

Morris, a former assistant and interim coach for the Atlanta Falcons, has a good relationship with the franchise and its owner Arthur Blank. Pierce went 5-4 as interim coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, cleaning up some of the mess caused by Josh McDaniels, and owner Mark Davis could no longer ignore a successful interim after letting go of Rich Bisaccia ago has three years to make the mistake with McDaniels. In New England, owner Robert Kraft honored a pending coaching deal with Mayo and quickly elevated him to Belichick’s successor. Despite the Patriots’ struggles since parting ways with Tom Brady, Kraft was determined to maintain the organizational culture. He just didn’t want Belichick to be the primary steward anymore.

Canales was the pick in Carolina in part because he worked with new general manager Dan Morgan in Seattle. Organic relationships and networking always matter the most.

But without a political cocktail to make teams pause and think differently, the race to hire a reputable coach would continue to be a problem. During this cycle, some teams interviewed up to 15 candidates. The Rooney Rule now requires franchises to conduct in-person interviews with at least two minority or female coaches from outside the organization for a head coaching or general manager position. They must also interview two of these candidates for all coordinator positions.

It is now much more difficult to attach yourself to one candidate and conduct disingenuous interviews with others. Front offices were looking at undrafted free agents better than coaching prospects. The eight teams led by new leaders also left with a deeper understanding of the entire pipeline.

Every year around this time, they prepare for judging at NFL headquarters in midtown Manhattan. For all the strategies league employees have devised to foster diversity, they know the perception boils down to this high-profile issue. Racial equity is the longest game they will ever play, and the NFL is still lagging behind in progress, which fuels the urge to watch the scoreboard.

Most of the time, they have to react to failure. Sometimes they are resolved. Sometimes they get exasperated. Sometimes they’re in denial, defensive, or as angry at their billionaire bosses as they can safely be. But most of the time they are dark. Until proven otherwise, America’s most powerful league is unwilling to resolve the saddest example of institutional sports bias, and advocates for diversity within the NFL are one way or another carrying a a heavier burden than the decision-makers who don’t have to answer to them – or seemingly anyone else.

“This kind of work is difficult, and it made me very emotional,” Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, once admitted in an interview. “We put a lot of emotion, sweat and tears into it. It’s very personal for us. Many people depend on us.

For once, Beane can relax, if only for a brief moment. Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, can see evidence that reinforces the importance of his passion, ideas and boldness. They are just two of many in the league office trying to convince a decentralized group of 32 competing teams to commit to a shared value.

It is possible to dream again. A year from now, the story could be very different if several big-name franchises with uncertain futures are looking for coaches at a time when Belichick, Vrabel, Pete Carroll and hot offensive coordinators Ben Johnson and Bobby Slowik are available again.

But for now, in the afterglow DeMeco Ryans’ stunning debut with the Houston Texans, teams flirt with diversity. It feels like a moment. If not, it’s at least an opportunity. Success will not be enough to overcome prejudice, but it is a powerful weapon.

The coaches of this wave must make their statement. As the profession begins to evolve, this is their chance to be trendsetters.

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