NFL hosting top diverse head coach, GM candidates

Commissioner Roger Goodell (left) talks with Rams owner Stan Kroenke before Super Bowl LVI. The NFL is conducting a program that is designed to help improve the league’s minority hiring record. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Commissioner Roger Goodell (left) talks with Rams owner Stan Kroenke before Super Bowl LVI. The NFL is conducting a program that is designed to help improve the league’s minority hiring record. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London and Anthony Robinson, the team’s director of college scouting, participated in the first day of the NFL’s coach and front-office acceleration program as part of the spring league meeting Monday at a Buckhead hotel.

The program, designed to help improve the league’s minority hiring record, will conclude Tuesday.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank opened the meeting, and general manager Terry Fontenot also addressed the group of more than 60 senior executives, men and women, from all 32 NFL teams.

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“Mr. Blank came in here and really set the tone for what this is about,” London said. “What the league is trying to accomplish here.”

London, who interviewed for the Rams’ offensive coordinator position in April, said a lot of information was provided in the first session.

“When you get an opportunity, how do you interact with the media?” London said. “How do you interview? How do you set up a staff? All of these things that when you get a chance to be a leader or be a head coach that you need to have prepared in order to put your best foot forward.”

The NFL, which is being sued by former Miami coach Brian Flores over its hiring practices, is fighting to make progress.

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Over the past two hiring cycles, five Black general managers have been hired, including Fontenot. Washington’s Martin Mayhew, Detroit’s Brad Holmes, Chicago’s Ryan Poles and Minnesota’s Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have also been hired.

Two Blacks – Houston’s Lovie Smith and Tampa Bay’s Todd Bowles – and one biracial coach – Miami’s Mike McDaniel – were hired during the latest head-coaching cycle.

“This goes to the effort to provide more exposure and networking for some of the best talent that we have at the National Football League on the head coach and front-office side,” said Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer. “Really, with a focus on diverse talent.”

“We know that we don't have the representation that we want in terms of head coaches and GMs. How do you address it? You provide opportunities like this."

- Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer

Each team sent two prospective candidates to the program. Robinson interviewed for the Falcons’ GM job and would like to become a general manager.

“We know that we don’t have the representation that we want in terms of head coaches and GMs,” Beane said. “How do you address it? You provide opportunities like this.”

Beane, who is directing this program, used a three-prong approach to help the prospective candidates: direct access to the club owners and decision-makers, direct networking access to the other participants and understanding the business of football.

“There is the game of football, and then there is the operations of football,” Beane said. “But the actual business of football, how is a club holistically run? How is the league office run? Understanding those dynamics which we know will lead to them being even better leaders and understanding the process.”

Also, there will be 15-minute sessions for the participants to meet one-on-one with owners and decision-makers Tuesday.

“Providing them with the gems, that knowledge to go to the next level,” Beane said. “They are ready at the most senior levels of the National Football League in terms of coaching and the front office, but how can you get that top job as a general manager or as a head coach? That’s what this is built around. We have three hours they will have direct time with all of the club owners to network in an informal and formal way.”

Colts coach Frank Reich also spoke to the group and shared what he was looking for from his staff.

“It’s all about building those kinds of relationships,” Beane said. “We fundamentally believe that it is human nature to hire and consider those that you know, those that you’ve heard about and those that you have a relationship with.”

The NFL plans to continue keeping track of its hiring record.

“The way that we’ll measure it, is I think we need to see the career trajectory of those who have participated in the program and to really track the progress that’s made over the next few years in the roles that they have,” Beane said.

This program is part of a bigger plan to address the league’s hiring practices.

“We’ll make adjustments to the Rooney Rule,” Beane said. “We’re looking at the anti-tampering policy. We’re making resolutions like the offensive assistant resolution to ensure that we are developing a pipeline of diverse offensive talent. There are a number of things that we have to do that will hopefully lead to more diversity in the senior ranks.”

Blank is a long-standing member of the league’s diversity committee.

“This is some of the most important work the NFL will do,” Blank said.

He later added, “We must get better. We must be more intentional to be better.”

The NFL has had other initiatives as far back as 1998 but did not sustain change over time.

“We have heard,” Blank said. “We are listening. We are listening hard.”

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