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.