The Chargers And The Rooney Rule
The NFL has a problem with a lack of diversity in front offices and coaching positions. The Rooney Rule, instituted in 2003 and amended this past season, aims to fix that problem.
Entering the 2020 season, only four head coaching positions were filled by people of color. This short list included Anthony Lynn of the Chargers, Brian Flores of the Dolphins, Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, and Ron Rivera of the Washington Football Team. In a league that is comprised of 70% African American players, it seems odd that 87% of head coaching positions in the NFL were held by white coaches.
Recently, the Chargers parted ways with Anthony Lynn for late-game collapses and poor game management. This left only three Head Coaches of color in the league. Newly vacant positions also included head coaching gigs with the Falcons, Lions, Texans, Eagles, Jaguars, and Jets.
The Rooney Rule requires that a team must interview at least two external minority candidates for head coaching vacancies, and at least one minority candidate for any coordinator job. It also includes requirements for teams to interview one external minority candidate for general manager jobs, as well as including minorities and/or female applicants for higher-level positions.
Of the seven head coaching vacancies, two have been filled by minority candidates, including Robert Saleh with the New York Jets, and David Culley with the Houston Texans. One candidate who interviewed with multiple teams but did not receive a Head Coaching opportunity was Eric Bieniemy with the Super Bowl-bound Chiefs. Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes both expressed frustration with Bieniemy not being hired elsewhere, but relief that he would return.
The Los Angeles Chargers would not receive any awards for transparency during their coaching search, but confirmed interviewees included Eric Bieniemy, Robert Saleh, Matt Eberflus of the Colts, Arthur Smith of the Titans, Brian Daboll of the Bills, Joe Brady of the Panthers, Jason Garrett of the Giants, and their eventual hire, Brandon Staley of the Rams. Many Chargers fans believed the job would be eventually earned by Eric Bieniemy or Brian Daboll, but Brandon Staley impressed the Chargers front office with his defensive prowess and vision for Justin Herbert and the offense.
Brandon Staley, Tom Telesco, and the Spanos family went to work to find three candidates that would lead the offense, defense, and special teams. They quickly settled on Joe Lombardi, a Quarterbacks Coach with the Saints, Renaldo Hill, a former safety and Defensive Backs Coach with the Broncos, and Derius Swinton who served as the Cardinals’ assistant special teams coach.
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Of the three coordinators hired by the Chargers, two are men of color. While the league has shifted towards hiring young offensive coordinators as Head Coaches, some teams have bucked that trend including the Chargers and Jets both hiring defensive-minded coaches in Staley and Saleh, respectively.
Derius Swinton and Renaldo Hill impressed many in their introductory press conferences, and if Staley is successful with the Chargers, I would not be surprised if either or both of them eventually get their shot as a head coach in the league. Both had clear and concise visions for how they want to mold the Chargers moving forward. When listening to Hill and Swinton, it’s easy to tell that like Coach Staley, they will put an emphasis on building relationships with their players.
When asked about proposed amendments to the Rooney Rule, including awarding teams who hire minority coaches and general managers with additional draft picks, Anthony Lynn replied, “I just think that networking can be a little better.” It is clear that the Chargers and new head coach Brandon Staley have that in mind as they continue to build the family that is Chargers football.