Tomlin Believes Spirit Of Rooney Rule Has Been Breached In Recent Years

In case you missed it this morning, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was a guest on Mike & Mike and was asked to talk extensively about the Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate when searching for a new head coach. During the interview, Tomlin was asked if he feels like the Rooney Rule has been more of a box to be checked my teams over the course of the last few years rather than honoring the true spirit of it.

“I think those that are doing the hiring are the ones, obviously, that are capable of answering that,” said Tomlin, who was hired by the Steelers in 2007. “But largely, my perspective is that the spirit of the rule has been breached and specifically in recent years. Particularly when you see instances where they’re interviewing the lone minority candidate that they interview is a present assistant or holdover on the staff that’s going through transition. But only the people that are doing the interviews can answer that, whether they’re truly following the spirit of the rule.”

Tomlin was asked if he has a solution to the current problem.

“I think what’s going right now is a big part of it, communication about the subject,” said Tomlin. “To be honest with you, I’d like to see more communication regarding the subject during the time of the year in which it’s really critical – December and January. But there are a lot of other significant storylines regarding playoff positions and good teams that go on at that time of year. I’d like to see the discussion being had right at, or just before, the hiring cycle. I think that these discussions are more impactful when they’re had at that time of year as opposed to the middle of July.”

Tomlin went on to say that the spirit of the Rooney Rule is to slow down the hiring process so that NFL owners might be exposed to some worthy candidates that they might not otherwise been exposed to. While Tomlin doesn’t know for sure how large of part the Rooney Rule played in him being hired by the Steelers in 2007, he does know that the Rooney family certainly does practice what they preach as it relates to the spirit of it and the overall process.

“It’s an interesting point that Mr. Rooney always makes to me when the subject comes up is that they had fulfilled the requirements of the Rooney Rule before they ever interviewed me, because they interviewed Ron Rivera before they interviewed me,” said Tomlin. “And I just think that speaks to the spirit of the rule. Those men were committed to going through a legitimate hiring process and exposing themselves to people they deemed worthy candidates regardless of race or ethnicity. And just the fact that I was not the first minority candidate that they interviewed speaks to the spirit of the Rooney Rule.”

According to a recent report by ESPN, NFL teams have taken a chance on 21 first-time white head coaches and only one first-time minority head coach, Todd Bowles, over the past five hiring cycles (2012-16).

You can hear the full audio of Tomlin’s interview below that begins around the 54:00 minute mark.

  • Big White

    I think we will see this number change dramatically over the next number of years simply because there are more black coaches now on the assistant and positional level.

  • Lil Smitty

    The problem with future hiring of Head Coaches is that most are hired from the Coordinator position. There are not that many minority Coordinators.

  • David Paul

    Social engineering always has negative consequences.

  • Big White

    I just hope the numbers rectify themselves. It would be a stain on the game if it doesn’t. I am optimistic though.

  • Sam Clonch

    I know the rule doesn’t extend to coordinators, but I would be interested in knowing if the Steelers interviewed any minority candidates for the OC and DC jobs since Tomlin took over.

  • Jacob

    The Rooney Rule is a good one, but I’m looking forward to the day when it isn’t needed. How can the level of melanin in a person’s skin determine their worth as a coach? One day maybe it will just be an “NFL Coach” rather than a “black coach” or a “white coach.”

  • Alan Tman

    I will say this much. You can see the influence of the Rooney’s in the AFC North!! Three black head coaches in the North!! Only one in the rest of the NFL and he came from Pittsburgh West!! Wow!!!

  • Steel City Slim

    I have mixed emotions about the Rooney Rule. I understand and appreciate why it initially came about, but I would hate to be the black or Hispanic guy that’s being disingenuously interviewed just to satisfy a rule. Besides, I think the only color owners see nowadays is green.

  • Lil Smitty

    I watched ESPNs coverage of this interview. They mentioned that 43 percent of minority coaches were from the Tony Dungy “coaching tree”. I think he was the first minority Coordinator when Noll promoted him in the eighties.
    I also wonder how many teams had minority scouts when the Steelers hired Bill Nunn?
    Looking at the Rooney’s and Chuck Noll, you would never figure they were so progressive in their thinking. The one thing that surprised me about Noll, was he played on an integrated football team when he was a kid. For the thirties and forties that was surprising.

  • falconsaftey43

    Have to really look at the percentages of coordinates and college head coaches to know if there is discrimination going on. Head coaches are hired from a small overall pool of candidates, if that pool is 95% white, it doesn’t matter if there is a rooney rule, teams will interview someone just to satisfy the rule and move on. would be interesting to see what those numbers are. Of course coordinates usually come from position coach so there is another level. At some level, there is a problem in the system since the player population is heavily tilted towards black, but the coaching population is heavily white.

  • ATL96STEELER

    This is one of those hot button topics, but the reality seems to be…the
    top level black/minority candidates are getting hired…Todd Bowles was a hot
    commodity, got a HC job…Hue Jackson was a hot commodity, got a HC job…Shaw
    at Stanford I think could have an NFL job if he wanted one, and probably
    Summerlin as well.

    So while I agree that some owners approach the
    process with a box checked mentality, but much like Sam and Lil Smitty
    mentioned, the next step imo is more minority guys graduating from position
    coaches to the coordinator level. If they have success there, they become legit
    HC candidates.

  • Jim Foles

    Tomlin’s starting D is all black… is that the rooney rule or maybe the black players on Pitt just work harder and get the job over others.?? Work hard… be the best… get the job…

  • hojo

    Maybe so, but the net effect is not always negative

  • hojo

    If I am correct about the Rooney’s history, they have always been a champion of the minorities.

  • JB Burgess

    I’d take Matakevich to start on the cheap if he pans out. Timmons is gone after this yr.

  • walter mason

    Wow all this talk about race. Maybe there should be a rule that every team interview a white CB. Sounds silly doesn’t it.

  • falconsaftey43

    there is no denying that there is a problem in the system. players are mostly black. most coaches were former players of some at some level, but still most coaches are white. hired % should always closely represent the population of potential candidates. You shouldn’t have to have a rule like this, but when the numbers are clearly skewed, you can’t just ignore them.

  • vasteeler

    Read an in depth article on minority coaches in the nfl at every position and the future doesnt look too bright for these individuals. it’s sad that this is still a topic of concern in this country but the truth is that most caucasian billionaires are just not comfortable having a black man as the head of their company. Gm’s know this as well and rarely even bother to give a minority candidate a serious look but instead only bring them in to satisfy the rule. Just goes to show that the Rooney family has been light years ahead of the rest of the league in so many different facets of football and management

  • Chad H

    Well said!
    Hire the best possible coach for your team.

  • walter mason

    Are you suggesting we can’t ignore the white/ black percentage of defensive backs? I don’t like all this race talk.

  • woodsworld58

    For every position, you are either good or not good enough…….

  • Labrat0116

    Slavery was an utter disaster for this country that is still playing out to this day.

  • Big White

    For the record, 12% of the country is black. 5 black head coaches out of 34 = 14%. So the real question is should the number of black coaches represent society or the percentage of blacks in the NFL at 68%?

  • Labrat0116

    Yes, the Rooney’s are NOT White Supremacist.

  • falconsaftey43

    You cant ignore it, but there isnt a percieve problem there. 68% of players are black, 28% are white. And the combine does serve as a massive onterview and Im sure every team interviews multiple players at all position of both white and black and other races. Why dont you like the discussion about racial equality?

  • falconsaftey43

    I think iti s somewhere in between. You have to look at the specific pool. You can also look at promotion rates. A georgetown study recently showed something like white coaches were 114% more likely to get promoted than their black counter parts.

  • walter mason

    Maybe because I don’t see color. Sorry if I offended anybody.

  • Alan Tman

    I thought my post was pretty positive. Excuse me if it offended you, but you are right we will be the players and you be the owners and coaches. When we were slaves and people were taking parcels of lands for free then you say work the hardest and the be the best. It’s kind of like you taking all the properties on the monopoly board and then telling me to work harder to win the game. We weren’t allowed to play when they started this league. Let alone buy a team. So I guess your theory is a little off.

  • PapaJuju

    No. That’s simple demographic statistics. How many more black players are in the league than white players. Lots. And so it is more likely you would have an all black starting D. Talent is only one component of that.

  • Alan Tman

    What’s the owners percentage? Let’s change that too!! We will take our twelve percent. Lol

  • Alan Tman

    Sounds silly when we are locked out of the ownership of the teams and you are just locked out of the corner back position. Lol

  • Alan Tman

    Because you own the league!!! Lol

  • Alan Tman

    Not the case in ownership.

  • falconsaftey43

    This isnt personal, I dont believe you meant it that way, but I hate when people say “I dont see color” as a way of ignoring the issue. There are peopel of dofferent races, and there are people that discriminate based on race. Ignoring that can be just as bad as participating. Racial inequality beeds to be something that can be talked about, even if it doesnt directly affect you.

  • Big White

    I have no doubt that the numbers are an indictment, but again i’d like to see more get opportunities at coordinator positions. Bowles for example didn’t back into the New York job, he was sought after. I think NFL owners want to win so badly that if one sees a coordinator scoring a ton of points or coaching the league’s best D, he’ll get his chance regardless of race. Winning cures all.

  • k33ger

    I don’t feel the Rooney Rule in and of itself accomplishes much. Anyone that is willing to hire a minority candidate doesn’t need a rule to help “guide” them. Anyone that isn’t willing to hire one, will ignore the rule and just work around it anyway.

    I think the existence of the rule is a mark of respect for the Rooney’s and their power in the league. Back when it came out, coaches about to be fired or wanting to quit for a nicer place were doing behind-the-scenes interviews and negotiations. Think Bill Parcells and all those shenanigans in the NFC / AFC East divisions.

    I think doing it with the minority requirement was just an easier way to make the rule and get it to pass, along with hopefully giving minority coaches a chance to interview and maybe even get those jobs.

    Actual numbers of coaches is a lot more difficult to talk about. If you say in these modern times people should be color-blind, then why does it matter if it’s a white coach and black players, or the inverse? It only matters if one group is biased.

    When you get into expectations and things like percentages, it only clouds the issue I think. Players can play, but can players coach? It’s a different skillset, and it seems to me, a very small percentage even attempt to go into coaching. So if you figure that not all players are capable of coaching, the percentage of black players vs the color of their coaches skin seems a flawed argument. Does this mean minorities in general cannot coach? Of course not. But using statistics as a reason for why there should be more minority coaches is misleading.

    I should mention: I’m a huge fan of Tomlin and I love how he deals with the media. 🙂

  • falconsaftey43

    Not to mention it is a completely different thing. Players are largely qualified due to their athletic ability. Black people aee more athletic than white people on average, so you’ll have a natural skew in the player population. Coaching doesnt have that, there is no reason for the descrepancy.

  • falconsaftey43

    But studies have shown it is a problem. Chris Rider’s study (can be found on ESPNs site) showed that white position coaches were 114% more likely to be promoted to coordinator than their black counter parts. And the study accounted for a ton of variables that could be hidden reasons like degree, team success, position coached, experience. It is a good study, you should check it out.

  • falconsaftey43

    Ownership may be more of a simple economic disparity issue. There are 18 billionare owners, while there are only 3 black billionares in the US (Oprah, Michael Jordan and Robert Smith). Only 12 of the 1810 billionares in the world are black.

  • Ike Evans

    Dungy said he has had teams call him and have a short conversation over the phone and try to count that as a rooney rule intetview with the league lol thats a joke and thats what tomlin is pointing to when talking about the spirit of the rule….the goal isnt neccesarily to have a certian percentage…the goal is to open up minds to candidates they may not have given a hard look at b4 because human nature in these situations is often to go with whats comfortable and most familiar to you…..but they want to not simply rely on the “good ole boys” network of hiring anymore and i respect the effort…..but clearly alot of ppl arent taking it seriously

  • walter mason

    i cant believe you brought up slavery.

  • walter mason

    yikes!

  • walter mason

    I dont own any part of the NFL.

  • walter mason

    I take offense that you feel I am part of “the problem” because I dont look at the color of a persons skin. I live in Miami and we have all kinds of skin colors and nationalities and non-Latin whites are most likely a minority here…But I dont think that way and I dont judge anyone by their race or where they came from. NFL is about money, not color. I wrote a very long reply but I decided to delete it because it wont change the way you think.

  • walter mason

    exactly on the last 2 sentences

  • walter mason

    spread the wealth lol?

  • walter mason

    You have a point there.

  • steelburg

    Not even close to the same. Coaches don’t have the luxury to play around with not playing the best players the get fired quickly if they start to lose because of it. Owners don’t have to answer to anyone for a bad hire. Look at the Titans hiring of Mike Mularkey why did a guy with a 18-39 career record and led the team to a 2-7 finish get another opportunity to be a head coach? That hire made absolutely made no sense IMO.

  • David Paul

    What holds the black community back is not the slavery of the 1800’s — for God’s sake, we have a black President — but rather 70% of fatherless children, who go on to commit 50% of the violent crime in the country. The Munchausen by Proxy approach by the left has kept the black community right where they want them: in bad schools, on welfare, and voting Democrat.

  • David Paul

    Yep, they’ve always worked to keep the black man dependent on the benevolent white man, reaching down to help them because they don’t think they’re capable of surviving without them. That is the essence of racism, no matter how strongly you proclaim “But I have black friends!”

  • David Paul

    The same Rooney who hired a black coach and didn’t let him bring in his own staff and to this day can’t fire and hire his own coordinators? Why has he never trusted Tomlin to make this team in his image?

  • David Paul

    Agreed. It’s the rule’s fault that there are token interviews. If Bill Cowher decided to come back to coaching, anyone who was interested in him would have to go through this mandated charade.

    The premise of the rule is idiotic – supposed white supremacist owners are going to hire more people they hate after being forced to interview them? Owners want to win. If an ISIS leader implemented a revolutionary offense he’d get looks.

  • defender_of_the_constitution

    After 20 years in the Marines, I am calling BS! Quit throwing out projections Tomlin!

  • Rob

    Projecting what you feel are the important issues to a community you are not a part of is a bit ridiculous. Like me trying to preach about the difficulties of menopause or child birth.

    But the point of the rule was to increase exposure, that would not happen otherwise. You can’t know if a coach is qualified if you never interview them, unless they have a proven record. That last statistic with Todd Bowles, is definitely telling.

  • hojo

    I’m curious, as I genuinely don’t know, did the old coaches have this authority over their coordinators?

  • Jim Foles

    Black or White Coaches… Work hard… be the best… get the job…
    Rooney Rule is stupid.

  • steelburg

    I won’t say the rule is stupid strictly because a coach like Tomlin would have never been discovered if not for the rule. Tomlin was a defensive coordinator for one year and got hired. When most teams didn’t even look in his direction with the resume he had. Even if more minority coaches are not being selected I like the fact that the rule gives them a opportunity to impress which is what Tomlin had to do at his interview with such a limited resume. Without the rule Tomlin is not even considered if not for the rule IMO.

  • The GreekGeek

    It is interesting because I wanted to try and put that stat into context with the demographics of the US population. According to the US Census Bureau’s stats for July 2015 they have the US population at 77.1% “White” and 13.3% “Black or African American.” This comes out to about a 6:1 ratio of white people to black people in the population. That ratio obviously would get smaller if we included all minorities. Compare that to 21:1 in the hiring ratio stat in the article and you see a 3 fold difference in the NFL hiring practice versus demographics. I let you decide if that is high or low.

    However, the US population as a whole doesn’t necessarily reflect the demographics of the NFL. Using 2014 numbers: If you look at ownership, you have no African American owners and one minority owner. 4 African American head coaches. 7 GMs. For players however, it is 67.3% African American. (97% of CBs, 84% or WRs, while for Caucasian players 82% of QBs and 84% of centers, 97% of specialists (ST).

    I’d be interested to see which coaches come from a playing background than from other places. If you would expect ascension from the playing ranks to coaching than you would also expect that to reflect the players demographic. Maybe it is slow to catch up since these numbers detail the current generation rather than the past, where coaches come from. Young coaches are the exception and not the rule. Some former players are working their way up from coaching like Joey Porter.

  • The GreekGeek

    Well, I think there were some extenuating circumstances in the hold over coaches. LeBeau was a legend and wasn’t going anywhere when Tomlin came in (with good reason at the time). Butler was the heir apparent to LeBeau so another hold over there. Arians was a strong coordinator with a good report with Big Ben so he stayed. Also, when Arians was let go, I am sure Tomlin played a part in the hiring of Haley, Munch, Richard Mann, Danny Smith, Porter, and others that have had success. I think the Rooney’s stay involved but don’t necessarily micromanage like Jerry Jones or the former Arthur Blank and Al Davis (RIP).

    All in all, I think this coaching staff is a strong reflection of Tomlin. He didn’t have a full staff in MINN, just defense, and that was LeBeau’s at the time. You have seen a strong imprint on the defense’s style this past year now with LeBeau gone. I think if there was a strong case to fire a coordinator Tomlin could do it, but we have two really good one’s right now, with a very good staff overall so no reason to make major changes…

    I don’t think your perception of the Rooney’s holding Tomlin back from control is correct considering the situation. I think the hiring of Tomlin in the first place was the hard choice with most pundits thinking it would be Whisenhunt (who has had some HC success since his departure) or Russ Grimm (who left disgruntled after not getting the promotion). I think they saw potential in the passionate young man they interviewed which brought a continued winning culture to the Steelers.

    We as Steelers fans are lucky to have such astute owners who make good choices overall. A few missteps here and there but the overall record is very good. While trying to maintain some character and class along the way (unlike the Patriots, Bengals, Ravens, or Cowboys).

  • The GreekGeek

    What is the solution then? With reform of the rules and hiring policies, you say it is the essence of racism, but if nothing is done, then the problem is discriminatory hiring practices left unchecked. So what is the right way to handle things? At least they try… I am sure if the Rooney’s were such bigots, they wouldn’t have so many former players trying to get back to Pittsburgh to play and leaving with lasting friendships like Ike Taylor for example…

  • Alan Tman

    The point was not slavery. It was free real estate was to be had, and since that is the number one way in US history to become rich we were at a disadvantage.

  • walter

    Yes I certainly agree that those of your race were at a disadvantage in the past. But I believe today any person can get ahead in the usa no matter what race or nationality and that can be proven right here in miami where refuges come across the ocean on makeshift rafts with only their clothes on their backs and no English and are still able to succeed.

  • Alan Tman

    It’s not simple. It goes to the statement I made earlier about monopoly. If the people that have all the assets stick together, then it is very hard for anyone else to break through.

  • Andy

    Uncle Tomlin is the type of black that white money LOVES to hire for the primary purpose to CONTROL other blacks. As a coach, he is OK, but as a person, I would not want to play for him. His stance on the Kaepernick debate just confirms how much of an Uncle Tom he is.