Steelers' Art Rooney II Weighs In on Impact of Enhanced 'Rooney Rule' on GM, HC Hires

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 3, 2022

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 16: A detail view of the NFL logo crest is seen on the field during the NFC Wild Card game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys on January 16, 2022 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers owner and president Art Rooney II addressed the NFL's issues with hiring people from historically excluded groups for head coaching positions Thursday but also pointed to what he sees as progress from the league in other areas.

Brooke Pryor of ESPN shared his statement in light of the class-action lawsuit Brian Flores levied against the NFL and its teams alleging racist hiring practices and discrimination:

"While I acknowledge that we have not seen progress in the ranks of head coaches, we have seen marked improvement in the hiring of women and minorities in other key leadership roles such as coordinator positions, general manager positions, and front office positions both in and out of football operations. I believe this progress has been made as a result of the implementation of many of the enhanced policies that were recently adopted."

Pryor noted enhanced Rooney Rule policies went into place in October and require teams to interview multiple external candidates from historically excluded groups for head coach, general manager and coordinator positions.

While Mike Tomlin of the Steelers is the league's only Black head coach after the Miami Dolphins fired Flores and the Houston Texans fired David Culley, three of the seven general managers hired during the 2021 hiring cycle are Black.

What's more, six defensive coordinators, three offensive coordinators and four special teams coordinators who were hired are from historically excluded groups compared to zero for offensive and special teams coordinator positions in 2020.

Comments from Pittsburgh's president are notable since the Rooney Rule was named after his father Dan Rooney, who was the Steelers former owner and the former chairman of the NFL's diversity committee.

Among the notable parts of Flores' lawsuit is an allegation that the New York Giants had already chosen Brian Daboll as their head coach before they even interviewed the former Dolphins coach. He included evidence that Bill Belichick mistakenly texted him to congratulate him on landing the job:       

Kevin Cole @KevinColePFF

Belichick wasn't faking his technophobia <a href="https://t.co/uidwpApkXg">pic.twitter.com/uidwpApkXg</a>

Flores also said in the suit that he had a similar experience in 2019 with the Denver Broncos, alleging that he was brought in for a "sham interview" and team executives, including then-GM John Elway, arrived late and "disheveled." According to the lawsuit, "It was clear from the substance of the interview that Mr. Flores was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule, and that the Broncos never had any intention to consider him as a legitimate candidate for the job." Vic Fangio was hired by the Broncos on Jan. 10, 2019.

Flores also alleged Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 for each loss during the 2019 season in an effort to improve draft positioning. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported the league is investigating the allegations against Ross.

However, the NFL previously issued a statement that said, in part, Flores' allegations "are without merit."

Flores was the head coach of the Dolphins for three seasons from 2019 through 2021 and went 24-25 overall with a winning record in each of his last two years.