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Report: NFL considering changes to anti-tampering rules, providing draft pick comp for hiring minorities

The NFL is trying to find news way to improve diversity in its ranks. We break down a huge proposal.

A general view of an end zone pylon during the first half between the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium. Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

NFL owners are meeting this coming Tuesday for their annual May league meeting, and huge changes to the team hiring process are going to be discussed. Frustrations with the effectiveness of the Rooney Rule is expected to result in discussing about significant changes to the anti-tampering rules, while also providing draft pick compensation to teams that hire minority coaches and teams that lose minority coaches, according to NFL Media reporter Jim Trotter.

The league is first considering a change to its anti-tampering rules. Currently, if a team wants to interview another team’s assistant coach for a head coach position, the interview cannot be denied. However, if a team wants to interview an assistant for a coordinator or position coach job, the interview can be denied. The league is looking to change that rule so that an interview from the end of the regular season to March 1 could not be denied.

The second change would incentivize the hiring of minorities as head coaches or primary football executives (e.g. general managers) through improved draft positioning. Trotter broke it down as follows:

If a team hires a minority head coach, that team, in the draft preceding the coach’s second season, would move up six spots from where it is slotted to pick in the third round. A team would jump 10 spots under the same scenario for hiring a person of color as its primary football executive, a position more commonly known as general manager.

If a team were to fill both positions with diverse candidates in the same year, that club could jump 16 spots — six for the coach, 10 for the GM — and potentially move from the top of the third round to the middle of the second round. Another incentive: a team’s fourth-round pick would climb five spots in the draft preceding the coach’s or GM’s third year if he is still with the team. That is considered significant because Steve Wilks and Vance Joseph, two of the four African-American head coaches hired since 2017, were fired after one and two seasons, respectively.

Additional compensation would apply some other hirings and departures. If a team hires a person of color as its quarterback coach and retains the coach beyond one season, they would receive a compensatory pick at the end of the fourth round of the draft. The quarterback position is the most important in the game, and regularly quarterback coaches are getting the best opportunities to advance.

Finally, if a team loses a minority assistant to another team’s coordinator job, the former club would receive a fifth-round compensatory pick. If a minority assistant or front office member leaves to become a head coach or general manager, the former club would receive a third-round compensatory pick.

The NFL has failed to improve diversity in its leadership ranks. The Rooney Rule offered a way to improve interview opportunities, but it did nothing to improve the structural problems that have kept minority coaches from advancing. The fact that the league is moving toward essentially bribing teams to hire minorities says something about the structural problems in the league.

The change to tampering rules could actually be the more valuable of these in the short term, but that also assumes teams attempt to hire minorities into the coordinator roles. None of this is likely to have a huge effect, and it is not even clear if it will pass an owner vote. For now, it’s hard to see this resulting in the kind of structural change the league needs to make serious progress on this issue.