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May 23, 2024

NFL Implements New Anti-Tampering Policy for Hiring Coaches and Front Office Personnel

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Jan 8, 2024

The NFL has instituted a new anti-tampering policy aimed at regulating the hiring of head coaches, coordinators and front office personnel. The policy, which was distributed to all 32 teams this week, aims to promote diversity in hiring and prevent teams from making backdoor deals or agreements with coaching candidates who are currently under contract with other teams.

Background

The NFL has faced mounting pressure in recent years to diversify its coaching ranks and front offices. Despite the majority of players being Black, the league has struggled with a lack of representation among coaches and executives. Following the firing of Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, who is Black, and subsequent lawsuit he filed against the league alleging discriminatory hiring practices, the NFL made diversifying and regulating the hiring process a top priority.

Breakdown of NFL player demographics compared to head coaches:

| Demographic | Player Percentage | Head Coach Percentage |
|-------------|-------------------|-----------------------|
| White       | 27%               | 87%                   |  
| Black       | 57%               | 6%                    |
| Latino      | 2%                | 6%                    |

In 2022, the NFL instituted a resolution requiring teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for open head coaching positions. While lauded as a step in the right direction, many felt the policy did not go far enough.

Details of New Anti-Tampering Policy

Under the new policy, which covers the hiring cycle from January 8th through the conclusion of next season’s Super Bowl, teams looking to fill vacancies for head coach, coordinator or front office positions must request an interview with the employer club. Interviews cannot be conducted until the conclusion of the employer club’s playing season.

The policy outlines specific windows for when interviews can take place:

  • Head Coach Interviews – Can begin after wild card playoff weekend (January 16-17, 2023) through the conclusion of championship weekend (January 29, 2023).

  • Coordinators – Interviews permitted during bye week (January 23-26, 2023), after divisional playoff weekend (January 22, 2023) and after conference championship weekend (January 30-February 5, 2023).

  • Front Office Positions – Interviews can occur during first two weeks of February 2023.

The updated policy also requires teams to submit in writing an “Equity Plan” for hiring head coaches and senior football executives. This plan must detail the team’s efforts to consider diverse candidates and ensure fairness in the hiring process. Teams that do not abide by their submitted plan will face significant fines up to $2 million per violation.

Reactions Around the League

Response to the anti-tampering policy from teams, coaches and league analysts has been largely positive:

  • Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner: “Creating equitable opportunities for coaches and executives to grow and succeed is critically important. This new policy is the result of significant and productive collaboration with clubs and the Alliance over the last year.”

  • Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach: “I’m excited for capable coaches who happen to have color to get opportunities. I just appreciate the transparency from ownership.”

  • Melanie Coburn, CBS Sports Analyst: “It’s refreshing to see real guidelines and oversight around the hiring process versus just hollow resolutions. The specificity will help eliminated back-channel deals and informal agreements.”

However, some feel the policy still stops short:

  • Bruce Arians, former NFL Head Coach: “Requiring interviews doesn’t get minorities hired. There’s still a human element where implicit biases can take over. I’d like to see required second interviews for external minority candidates.”

  • Jason Reid, The Undefeated: “Fines don’t address the underlying issues that allow qualified Black candidates to be continually passed over. We need systemic change in how owners view desirable coaching candidates beyond just requiring extra interviews.”

What Happens Next

With the new anti-tampering policy now solidified and distributed to all clubs, attention shifts to implementation. All teams with vacancies must submit their written Equity Plans in the coming weeks. These plans will face intense scrutiny, especially for franchises like the Arizona Cardinals who fired a Black head coach in Steve Wilks after just one year.

The next litmus test for the policy will be wild card weekend when the head coach interview window officially opens. Based on tradition, the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and Cardinals are expected to start interviews with their lengthy lists of candidates at that time.

Other coordinator and front office interviews will follow over the coming month as teams are eliminated from playoff contention. Ultimately the success of the policy will be determined not just by how rigorously teams follow process requirements but also if it leads to increased diversity in hires. The league seems committed to course-correcting its record on representation but faces pressure to show tangible improvement this hiring cycle versus incremental change.

Projected 2023 Head Coach Candidates by Represented Group:  

|Coaching Candidate|Current Position|Team|Minority Status|
|-|-|-|-|
|Sean Payton|Former HC/Current Analyst|N/A|White|
|Dan Quinn|DC|Cowboys|White| 
|DeMeco Ryans|DC|49ers|Black|
|Eric Bienemy|OC|Chiefs|Black|
|Jerod Mayo|LB Coach|Patriots|Black|  
|Raheem Morris|DC|Rams|Black|
|Jim Caldwell|Former HC/Advisor|Panthers|Black|

Getting candidates to second interviews versus token initial interviews remains imperative. Relative coaching vacancies compared to past cycles and tight competition for top candidates like Sean Payton and Dan Quinn means pressure on decision makers to take a broad view of potential coaches.

Ultimately for sustainable change, leaders must catalyze a cultural shift in how coaching talent is recognized. If that occurs, perhaps future anti-tampering policies and resolutions aimed at compliance to process will no longer prove necessary. For now, all eyes remain fixed on a league trying to change course after decades of lagging representation in its top ranks.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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