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Tony Dungy talks Rooney Rule evolution and more

Mike Florio

Over the weekend, Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy addressed in an item posted at PFT the current challenges facing the NFL’s the Rooney Rule, along with his ideas for its evolution. On Monday morning, Dungy joined me to discuss the situation in further detail.

The full conversation appears in the attached video. The biggest takeaway is that Dungy believes owners need to be encouraged to take more time when considering potential candidates and that, if they do, the hirings of coaches will better reflect the longstanding demographics of the NFL’s players.

For now, the percentages are stunning, with more than 70 percent of the players being minorities but only four of the 32 coaches (three are African-American). The current distribution of minority coaches has regressed in recent years, matching levels that were in place when the league first promulgated the Rooney Rule a generation ago.

As Dungy explained, it’s not about quotas or forcing teams to interview people. It’s about owners taking more time to engage in searches that often get rushed and, given the amount of turnover in the NFL, botched.

The late Dan Rooney showed how to properly engage in a deliberate and careful search when hiring Mike Tomlin. Dungy said that Rooney was similarly careful 15 years earlier, when hiring Bill Cowher. The more careful that owners are when reviewing candidates and making slow, thoughtful decisions about who the “right guy” is will not only result in more teams hiring the “right guy” but also in more of the hiring decisions reflecting the diversity that currently exists among players who, as we’ll see from now through late April, are selected as the result of a rigorous, thorough, and thoughtful screening process.

Dungy noted out that, at one point, the NFL had no minority players. That changed. The league then had no African-American quarterbacks. That changed. He’s confident that, in time, the lack of diversity among head coaches and other key positions also will change, as owners realize that their teams benefit from the kind of reasoned process that isn’t driven by gut-level reactions or hearing bells or any type of quick, hurried conclusions.