MIAMI — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed the league’s lack of minority coaches during his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference Wednesday afternoon. The dearth of minority head coaches has prompted criticism toward the league and its policies.
“We are not where we want to be,” Goodell said. “It’s clear we need to change and do something different.”
The NFL established the Rooney Rule in 2003, which required teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching positions. Despite the rule, there are currently just four minority head coaches (Mike Tomlin, Anthony Lynn, Brian Flores and Ron Rivera) in the 32-team league in which 70 percent of players are black.
This offseason brought five head coaching vacancies, but only one was filled by a minority candidate. Rivera was hired by the Washington Redskins in December after being fired by the Carolina Panthers during the regular season.
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy had interviews with the New York Giants, Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns for their open head coaching positions, but each team hired someone else.
“There’s no reason to expect to have a different kind of outcome next season without those changes,” Goodell said. “We have to make those changes and we will have a very serious meeting over the month to get that kind of dialogue going.”
The Cleveland Browns hired Andrew Berry as their general manager, making him the second black general manager currently in the NFL. Berry, 32, is also the youngest general manager.
“We are trying to make our front offices diverse and our league diverse,” Goodell said. “We believe diversity makes us better as a league.”
Goodell is concerned about former Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders’ wide receiver Antonio Brown. The seven-time Pro Bowler was arrested and charged last week for felony burglary with battery, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance and criminal mischief. Brown was freed from house arrest on Tuesday.
“I think the first thing is to think about is the well being of Antonio in terms of what he is going through,” Goodell said. “We don’t talk about the wellness of our players publicly, but I can tell you that the NFL and the NFLPA has tremendous resources for our players. The are going to made available to Antonio and we want to get him on the right track. We want to get him in a position where he feels he can be successful in life.”
Goodell said the league plans to honor NBA legend Kobe Bryant and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Doleman during Sunday’s game. Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people that passed away in a helicopter crash Sunday. Coleman died Tuesday after a battle with brain cancer.
The league plans to take its time with its investigation of the New England Patriots’ videotaping of the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Our responsibility is that we are being extremely thorough,” Goodell said. “We have a responsibility to 31 other clubs, we have responsibility to partners, we have a responsibility to fans to understand all of what happened and make sure that something we don’t know didn’t happen. From our standpoint, we want to make sure we are being thorough. Our team has been on it. We have obviously put our focus on it, but we’re going to get it right.”
When Goodell was asked about London being a potential destination for an NFL franchise, he said a timeline has not been set. He wants to continue to grow the fanbase there and also ensure a team could be competitive.
Ryan McFadden is a student in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism master’s degree program. He is covering the Super Bowl as a representative of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism.