NFL must change minority hiring practices - Goodell

3 min

Miami (AFP)

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell vowed to address minority hiring practices across the sport on Wednesday after black coaches failed to land any recently available head-coaching vacancies.

The NFL was one of the first professional leagues to require teams to interview at least one minority candidate for coaching and senior management positions, establishing its "Rooney Rule" in 2003.

But despite the groundbreaking affirmative action policy, only three of 32 head coaching jobs across the NFL are held by minorities in a league where 70% of players are African-American.

"Clearly we are not where we want to be," Goodell said ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl.

"We've put a lot of work into not only our people but our policies overall. But it's clear we need to change and do something different.

"There's no reason to expect a different outcome next year without this kind of change."

Goodell said the league planned a series of meetings over the off-season to study the issue.

"We need to think about what steps we need to take that will lead to different outcomes," he said.

The problem has come under intense scrutiny this season following the case of Kansas City Chiefs offensive co-ordinator Eric Bieniemy.

Although Bieniemy has helped the Chiefs reach Sunday's Super Bowl, he has been passed over for no fewer than seven head coaching positions that have fallen vacant over the past two years.

- Pattern of rejection -

It is a pattern of rejection that has left many in the league baffled, including Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.

"I get it. But I don't get it," Reid said this week. "I'm the biggest Eric Bieniemy fan in the world. I know how good he is. I think he'd be a great head coach."

Bieniemy, who has been influential in turning the Chiefs into one of the most potent offenses in the game, said Wednesday he was unfazed by repeatedly missing out.

"I can't speak to anyone else's opportunities, but the opportunities I've been given I was given I was very fortunate to get," Bieniemy told AFP.

"So I'm going to continue to work hard and at some point someone may decide to take me. I know who I am, I know how hard I work, how passionate I am about what I do.

"If it happens, it happens."

Some players however have been more forthright.

San Francisco 49ers veteran cornerback Richard Sherman believes qualified minority coaches need to go "above and beyond" to have a chance of landing a head coaching position.

"This is a 70% African-American league and I think for coaches its something like 10%," Sherman said. "I think it should be at least 50-50. But I don't think the owners want it way.

"Our ownership looks a certain way and I think they appreciate our coaches looking a certain way," Sherman added, citing the example of Bieniemy.

"It just seems like in order for a qualified candidate to be considered they've got to go over and beyond and I think (Bieniemy's) done that," Sherman said, citing Bieniemy's influence in helping turn Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes into the league's reigning MVP last season.

"He took a second year quarterback who was a first time starter and helped him have an MVP season," Sherman said. "Now I think Pat Mahomes deserves a lot of credit for that as well -- but there's a guy calling the plays who deserves a ton of credit too."

Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy said simply: "It's time for him."

"You keep hearing his name come up. I think eventually he'll get a job."