MIAMI (AP) — Stopping short of saying the Rooney Rule is not working, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell noted Wednesday the league needs change to its minority hiring policy.
Though the league requires teams to interview minority candidates, only two African-Americans have been hired for 19 open head coaching spots over the past three years. The league has only two minority general managers among the 32 teams.
“Clearly we are not where we want to be on this level,″ he said at his annual Super Bowl news conference. “We have a lot of work that has gone into not only the Rooney Rule but our policy overall. It’s clear we need change and do something different.
“There’s no reason to expect we’re going to have a different outcome next year without those kinds of changes and we’ve already begun engaging in those changes. Not just with our diversity committee, not just with the Fritz Pollard Alliance, but others. And trying to figure out what steps we could take next that would lead to better outcomes. It’s clear we’re all committed to doing that, and we have to make those changes.
“We will have a series of meetings which we’ve already scheduled over the next month to get that kind of dialogue going, to continue the dialogue to try to determine what are the solutions so we can have those better outcomes, he added.”
The Rooney Rule, which has been adopted by other leagues and businesses, calls for a minority candidate to be interviewed for head coaching and executive openings such as general managers. Critics have said those interviews are often simply token responses to the rule and that the minority candidates are not seriously considered for those positions.
Goodell also addressed negotiations between the NFL Players Association and the league on a new labor deal. The current 10-year contract runs out in March 2021 and there is optimism on both fronts that a new deal would be finalized before this March when the 2020 league year begins.
“We’ve been having incredibly productive dialogue,″ Goodell said. ”I think we’ve made a lot of progress at now seven or eight months since we began those discussions more formally.
“I think we’ve addressed difficult issues that face our league going forward and looking forward. I think both the players and management and everyone at the negotiations have worked to try to find creative solutions to make the NFL better and that’s what you want.″
As for putting a timetable on a potential agreement, Goodell wouldn’t speculate.
“The process will close when the process closes, when all of us feel comfortable that we’ve reached an agreement that we want to go forward with,” he said. “I don’t know when that will be. I think it’s more important to get it right.”
One of the major bargaining points of a new CBA is adding a 17th regular-season game, presumably to be played at neutral sites. Asked if that didn’t fit with the league’s emphasis on player safety, Goodell said all metrics are showing the game is safer than ever.
Concussions, though, were up slightly last season, and lower extremity injuries have become a major focus for the league’s medical staff.
“Safety has been at the forefront and our No. 1 priority of our players,” he said, mentioning data that shows which “techniques should be taken out of the game,″ thus affecting rules changes.
“For us, the data is the key component to what we want to do in changing the season. We don’t look at it as just we (will) have a 17th game. We look at the entire season, the offseason, training camp, how we prepare our players to get ready for the season, how we practice during the season. So all those changes and taking techniques out of those games has made our game safer.”
On other topics:
—The NFL will return to play a regular-season game in Mexico City this season and next. It will be the fifth and sixth games played at Azteca Stadium. Goodell said dates and teams will be announced when the schedule is revealed in early spring.
— The latest probe into Patriots videotaping shenanigans is not completed. The NFL is in no rush to reach a conclusion about the video of the Bengals sideline being taken for a Patriots website. Patriots coach Bill Belichick has said he never viewed the footage and the team maintains the purpose of the filming was for an illustration of the work team advance scouts do while on the road. The team says it accepts full responsibility for the crew’s actions.
Goodell disagreed with the presumption it was a simple investigation.
— The NFL’s main goal regarding the case involving receiver Antonio Brown is to help him be successful in life. He did not offer any updates on where the investigation stands regarding the troubled receiver, who was released by the Patriots this season when allegations of sex abuse surfaced. Brown has since had a series of off-field incidents. Any return to the league is contingent on his being cleared to play again by the NFL.
— Goodell hinted that the next open Super Bowl would be awarded by the end of the calendar year when asked whether Las Vegas is in line for such a game. The next four Super Bowls will be in Tampa, Los Angeles, the Phoenix area, and New Orleans.
He also said the NFL is not married to the defending Super Bowl champions hosting the Thursday night kickoff game for the season. That could bring the opening of the new Las Vegas or Los Angeles stadiums into play for that prime-time spot.