On Friday, Jim Trotter of the NFL Network reported that the NFL is proposing an expansion to the Rooney Rule in an effort to improve upon the league’s sclerotic efforts in hiring racial minority to executive, head coach, and coordinator positions. One half of the rule, which would abolish anti-tampering rules for assistant coaches interviewing for coordinator positions, would be very important and significant, if also a straightforward rule change.
The other half, one that has received some skepticism from voices like Mike Florio, Michael Rosenberg, and Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, would radically alter several aspects of the NFL Draft. This article will focus on that portion of the proposal, by taking an objective look at what changes would have happened in previous drafts dating back to 2003, when the Rooney Rule was first established, with the goal of helping observers form an opinion on this part of the proposal.
The changes to the draft are twofold. First, teams that hire head coaches or “primary football executives” (this article will use “general manger” and “GM” as shorthand) of a racial minority will see their draft picks moved up in order, as Trotter explains here:
- If a team hires a minority head coach, that team, in the draft preceding the coach’s second season, would move up six spots from where it is slotted to pick in the third round. A team would jump 10 spots under the same scenario for hiring a person of color as its primary football executive, a position more commonly known as general manager.
- If a team were to fill both positions with diverse candidates in the same year, that club could jump 16 spots — six for the coach, 10 for the GM — and potentially move from the top of the third round to the middle of the second round. Another incentive: a team’s fourth-round pick would climb five spots in the draft preceding the coach’s or GM’s third year if he is still with the team. That is considered significant because Steve Wilks and Vance Joseph, two of the four African-American head coaches hired since 2017, were fired after one and two seasons, respectively.
If this rule was applied to previous hires under the Rooney Rule, here are draft pick upgrades that would have resulted. Picks with an asterisk are ones that would have moved up into a different round. I am also considering Chris Grier to have become the “primary football executive” in 2019, meaning that the Dolphins would have been the first team to have placed racial minorities in that position and head coach in the same offseason.
Draft Pick Upgrades Under Expanded Rooney Rule, 2003 to 2020
|Draft||Team||HC and/or GM||Old Pick||New Pick||Player Selected|
|2004||Bengals||Marvin Lewis||81st||75th||Caleb Miller|
|2005||Bears||Lovie Smith||70th||64th*||traded for Adewale Ogunleye|
|2005||Bengals||Marvin Lewis||119th||114th||Eric Ghiaciuc|
|2005||Cardinals||Dennis Green||75th||69th||Eric Green|
|2006||Browns||Romeo Crennel||78th||72nd||Travis Wilson|
|2006||Bears||Lovie Smith||120th||115th||Jamar Williams|
|2006||Cardinals||Dennis Green||107th||102nd||Gabe Watson|
|2007||Texans||Rick Smith||73rd||63rd||Jacoby Jones|
|2008||Steelers||Mike Tomlin||88th||82nd||Bruce Davis|
|2008||Texans||Rick Smith||118th||113th||Xavier Adibi|
|2008||Giants||Jerry Reese||95th||85th||Mario Manningham|
|2009||49ers||Mike Singletary||74th||68th||Glen Coffee|
|2009||Giants||Jerry Reese||129th||124th||Andre Brown|
|2010||Buccaneers||Raheem Morris||67th||61st*||Myron Lewis|
|2010||Colts||Jim Caldwell||94th||88th||Kevin Thomas|
|2010||49ers||Mike Singletary||113th||108th||traded (used by Patriots to select Aaron Hernandez)|
|2011||Vikings||Leslie Frazier||74th||68th||traded for Randy Moss|
|2011||Buccaneers||Raheem Morris||104th||99th||Luke Stocker|
|2011||Colts||Jim Caldwell||119th||114th||Delone Carter|
|2012||Panthers||Ron Rivera||73rd||67th||traded for Greg Olsen|
|2012||Chiefs||Romeo Crennel||74th||68th||Donald Stephenson|
|2013||Raiders||Reggie McKenzie||66th||56th*||Sio Moore|
|2013||Panthers||Ron Rivera||108th||103rd||Edmund Kugbila|
|2014||Raiders||Reggie McKenzie||107th||102nd||Justin Ellis|
|2015||Buccaneers||Lovie Smith||65th||59th*||traded up to 61st for Ali Marpet|
|2015||Lions||Jim Caldwell||88th||82nd||traded up to 81st for Alex Carter|
|2016||Jets||Todd Bowles||83rd||77th||Jordan Jenkins|
|2016||Lions||Jim Caldwell||11th||106th||Miles Killebrew|
|2017||Browns||Hue Jackson||65th||59th*||Larry Ogunjobi|
|2017||Jets||Todd Bowles||114th||109th||traded to draft Brandon Shell|
|2018||Broncos||Vance Joseph||71st||65th||Royce Freeman|
|2018||Chargers||Anthony Lynn||84th||79th||Justin Jones|
|2018||Browns||Hue Jackson||105th||99th*||Antonio Callaway|
|2019||Chargers||Anthony Lynn||130th||125th||Drue Tranquill|
|2020||Dolphins||Brian Flores & Chris Grier||70th||54th*||Brandon Jones|
Most of the attention on the draft change part of the proposal so far has focused upon the above. But the other part of the draft change would be more radical, and it would alter the compensatory draft pick system, as detailed here by Trotter:
If a minority assistant left to become a coordinator elsewhere, his former club would receive a fifth-round compensatory pick. And if a person of color leaves to become a head coach or general manager, his previous team would receive a third-round compensatory pick.
One final provision: Any team that hires a person of color as its quarterbacks coach would receive a compensatory pick at the end of the fourth round if it retains that employee beyond one season.
Hires of coordinators are much more populous than that of head coaches, yet this part of the proposal would give teams entirely new draft picks instead of small movements in the 3rd and 4th rounds. The tables at the end of this article lay out which teams would have been awarded comp picks for the departure of certain coaches to higher jobs with other teams, as well as how many comp picks each team would have accumulated from this rule from 2003 to 2020. Note that the “effective compensatory picks” column is different from the total due to teams barred from receiving more than 4 comp picks in one draft. Please note that these tables are a work in progress, and I may have erroneously omitted or added coaches. If you see any such errors, please correct me by replying to me on Twitter.
Finally, altering the comp pick formula for this purpose may run in conflict with the CBA as written. Art. 6, §10 states that “Compensatory Draft Selections shall be determined in accordance with the rules and procedures set forth in Appendix V, subject to any future changes as to which the parties may agree.” Since App. V obviously does not contain this change, by the letter of the CBA this change may require approval from the NFLPA. In addition, Art. 6, §2(a) explicitly states that the number of comp picks must be exact to the number of teams in the league, which is 32. If this provision is not changed in any negotiation with the NFLPA, then numerous comp picks from the usual process would not be awarded due to being pushed out of the 32 pick limit.
Compensatory Picks Awarded Under Expanded Rooney Rule, 2003 to 2020
|Draft||Team||Coach or Executive||Role||Round|
|2015||Seahawks||Ken Norton, Jr.||DC||5th|
|Team||Comp Picks Awarded||3rd||4th||5th|