Nearly six months after the NFL tabled an original proposal, team owners unanimously passed a resolution this week that will reward teams with compensatory draft picks for developing minority talent in the coaching and executive ranks.
I think the resolution is a net positive for people of color in the NFL, and I believe the league office is continuing to show it cares about having team leaders be more reflective of the team’s makeup even if team owners aren’t as motivated.
The proposal was tabled back in May shortly after the news of its existence leaked. People of all colors were put off by teams “earning” a draft pick for hiring people of color to be the head coach or GM, as though there needed to be extra incentive to hire the right person. As one Black assistant coach texted me in May: “The idea that the NFL might unearth the next example of leadership excellence through a more inclusive mindset, should be incentive enough.”
It never went to a vote, and I’m told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Troy Vincent’s football operations team continued to work on the proposal while in close consultation with the Fritz Pollard Alliance. The result was to remove teams “earning” those picks for hiring people of color to be head coaches and or general managers and focusing on developing the talent.
But because Black people are not a monolith, there’s still some general unease and reasonable disagreement.
“Most are very supportive of this but there are those who are reluctant to have any incentives tied to their ability to get jobs,” one league source told me on the condition of anonymity so they could speak more freely.
That’s fair, but I ultimately don’t see teams factoring in two third-round draft picks a decade down the road for the reason why they hired a Black pro scout over an equally good white scout. I’ve also seen talk of teams fearing hiring a minority coach or executive from a rival team knowing that team — perhaps a division foe — will get two third-round picks in a couple of years.
If it were me, I’d rather have that coach or GM on my side rather than having to face them twice a year. You’re hiring the person to win a Super Bowl, so who cares if a foe gets an extra crack at a Big Ten linebacker two years from now?
The pipeline is not lacking. The pipeline has plenty of deserving candidates. The point of this resolution is not to better an already-great pipeline. The fact is, with two GMs and four permanent head coaches of color, nothing has worked.
We’ve been stuck in neutral in the immediate years since the induction of the Rooney Rule. The overwhelming majority of team owners have done little to pick up the torch from the late Dan Rooney.
“These mechanisms do nothing to bind our decision-makers to diversity,” a league source noted.
Team owners should recognize that a diverse workplace is good for business. But still they’ve been unmotivated to hire head coaches and general managers who don’t look like them. Perhaps this is the kick they need, even though they shouldn’t need it at all.
The fact is there is a diversity crisis at top levels among NFL teams. The team owners are the chief decision-makers, and with very little change they have been the same people for years and will continue to be the same people. Maybe this won’t help at all, but attempts have to be made to try.
Football marries analytics
Up by five with less than a minute left, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin opted against trying a 33-yard field goal and instead attempted a fourth-down conversion that failed. The three points would have pushed the Steelers lead to eight and meant, at worst, they would have gone to overtime. But Tomlin saw the threat of a blocked kick as introducing a different scenario into the fold.
“We had struggled so much with our field goal group early in the game, I just didn’t feel good about it,” Tomlin said after the game. “They were beating us to the punch pretty much for the better part of the day in special teams. We missed an extra point and they blocked a field goal attempt … I had just seen enough of their dominance in [special] teams.”
The analytics would surely point to the field goal ostensibly being a sure thing. Then you’d have to figure Garrett Gilbert couldn’t score a touchdown and 2-point conversion in less than a minute with no timeouts.
But whatever bot you tinker with online or whatever “go for it” card the coach may have in his back pocket, the analytics cannot take into account how the Cowboys were dominating the Steelers’ kicking unit. Tomlin recognized that, did the math in his head and figured this was the best chance to win the game.
This isn’t to say death to analytics. I love analytics. I just believe that was the perfect identifier of how teams should combine analytics with decades of intrinsic football knowledge and make decisions.
Texans, what are you doing?
This is a little inside-football but the Texans firing Amy Palcic, their VP of communications, midseason was one of the most stunning developments of this NFL season. That’s not hyperbole.
Palcic, the only woman in NFL history to have full PR duties for a team, is among the best at her job. She’s incredibly kind, helpful, smart and innovative. Her group put together that incredible viral moment with Deshaun Watson’s family and friends when Watson signed his mega-contract extension.
Who runs your favorite team’s PR department shouldn’t be at the top of mind for any normal NFL fan. But firing someone like Palcic for “culture fit” is downright alarming for the Texans. Again, no hyperbole, this is more shocking than Bill O’Brien trading DeAndre Hopkins away for a second-round pick.
One must wonder what direction owner Cal McNair, president Jamey Rootes and interim GM Jack Easterby are taking these Texans. With J.J. Watt likely playing elsewhere in 2021 and Houston getting a new head coach, changes are definitely coming for the Texans. I just don’t know if the changes will be any good.
Mahomes set such a high bar in 2018 that we almost always hold him to that standard. And he’s nearly meeting it anyway! He’s just off his passing touchdowns pace with 26. He’s thrown just one interception for a league-leading 0.3% interception rate. He’s taken just 11 sacks this year and his 66.9% completion rate is higher than his career average. Oh, and the Chiefs are 8-1. Just past the midway point of the season, Mahomes is the MVP frontrunner.
Here are my rankings in order through nine weeks: Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Josh Allen, Tom Brady, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Donald, Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, Ben Roethlisberger.
Oh, baby we’re cooking with bacon now. Week 9 gave me a nice 11-3 record to boost my overall picks record to 88-43-1 this season. No reason to get cocky, though. I need to stay focused this week even though I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Augusta Sunday afternoon. I took the Titans on Thursday Night Football, by the way. So we start the week out with a loss.
Football Team at Lions
Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox
The Lions may be the most inconsistent team in football. Just when you think they’re ready to go on a run, they forget how to play defense and lose two straight. Matt Patricia may very well be on his way out, but I’m told the players have hardly quit on a coach who’s tried to adjust the way he handles players in the locker room and meeting rooms. Unfortunately for Patricia, he learned those lessons too late, it seems.
The pick: Lions
Sunday, 4:05 p.m., CBS
Because of my Sunday schedule, the Chargers are one of the main teams I always have to watch Monday morning instead of watching live. By then, of course, I know how they lost, and watching the end of those games is like watching a whodunit. I’m split on this one because I think Justin Herbert is the better quarterback, but it’s hard to turn away from how efficient Tua was last week. Add in Miami’s defense and I think the Chargers move to 2-7.
The pick: Dolphins
Sunday, 4:05 p.m., CBS
The Bills are an extremely confident team. Not only did they just trounce the Seahawks, but I believe finally getting over the Patriots hump helped show them they truly can be an AFC elite. I still have them a tier below Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, but they are believing in western New York. I think the Cardinals are still a year away from being a consistent contender.
The pick: Bills
Browns over Texans
Steelers over Bengals
Rams over Seahawks
Ravens over Patriots