TAMPA, Fla. — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expressed disappointment Thursday that only two minorities were hired for seven head-coach openings despite a growing pool of qualified candidates.
“I’m not sure there’s an issue we spent more time with our ownership on,” Goodell said as part of his annual state-of-the-league address ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl. “Our ownership is committed and focused on this.”
The commissioner emphasized that lack of diversity isn’t just a head-coaching issue but an issue throughout positions on all clubs.
“It’s much broader than just head coaches for us,” he said. “But head coaches is important. And we put a lot of our policies and focus on that this year. As you know, we had two minority coaches hired this year. But it wasn’t what we expected, and it’s not what we expect going forward.”
The two head coaches he referenced were the New York Jets‘ Robert Saleh, who is of Lebanese descent, and the Houston Texans‘ David Culley, who is Black. They joined Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, Miami’s Brian Flores and Washington’s Ron Rivera as the league’s only minority head coaches.
That’s in stark contrast to the league’s player base, which is about 70% minority.
Goodell said he has had and will continue to have discussions with candidates — the successful and the unsuccessful — and teams over what went right and wrong in interviews in order to come up with better solutions.
“They’re not the outcomes we wanted, and we’re committed more than ever to make sure we do that. But we want it to be a natural process,” Goodell said.
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy again did not receive a job offer, nor did Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich didn’t even receive an interview, despite his work with Tom Brady this season, assimilating the veteran quarterback into Bruce Arians’ offense with no offseason and reaching the Super Bowl.
“I know people want to focus on the head coach, but there were a lot of positives — three new general managers that are African American,” Goodell said, pointing to the hiring of Martin Mayhew with the Washington Football Team, Terry Fontenot with the Atlanta Falcons and Brad Holmes with the Detroit Lions.
“There’s a lot more diversity in the coordinator position also, and across the league,” Goodell said. “But we’re not satisfied. And we feel like we can do better, and we’re going to.”
Goodell also addressed how the league handled the coronavirus this season.
He noted that there were times when there were doubts as to whether the league would be able to get a handle on the virus, particularly with the Tennessee Titans outbreak that saw 24 people, including 13 players, test positive over a 2½-week period and forced the closure of team facilities.
Although he’s not certain what’s in store this upcoming year, Goodell believes “virtual is going to be part of our lives.”
“I wish I knew the answer to that,” he said. “One of the things that I have learned, and all of us have learned, is not to project too much in advance. … I don’t know when normal is going to be, and I don’t know if normal will ever exist again. I know that we have learned to operate in a very difficult environment and have solutions and we sure can do it again.”