Roger Goodell Talks COVID-19, 'Minority Coaches,' More at SB 55 Press Conference

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2021

NFL football commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a press conference ahead of Super Bowl 55, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (Perry Knotts/NFL via AP)
Perry Knotts/Associated Press

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed the limited hiring of coaches from underrepresented groups around the league plus his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic at his annual press conference ahead of the Super Bowl.

The league's hiring practices were front and center Thursday after two people of color earned head coaching jobs out of the seven openings during this cycle, bringing the total to five nonwhite head coaches in the NFL.

"It wasn't what we expected and it's not what we expect going forward," Goodell said

David Culley and Robert Saleh were the only people of color hired, while Culley and Brian Flores are the only Black coaches to become head coaches in the last three years.

"We want to make our NFL clubs diverse," Goodell said. "Head coach is important. We had two minority coaches hired, but it wasn't what we expected."

"Our ownership is committed and focused on this," he added.

One potential option brought up was delaying the hiring process until after the Super Bowl, allowing those still coaching deep into the playoffs to have more consideration. This could have included Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who is in the Super Bowl for the second straight season but has not been hired as a head coach.

It will still be a process to help the league's coaching staffs match the diversity of the players on the field.

There were also several questions Thursday related to the COVID-19 pandemic following a year unlike any other. The league made significant changes to the 2020 season, including the draft, offseason workouts and training camps. Goodell said he couldn't say whether things will get back to normal for 2021.

"We've learned to try not to project too much in advance," he told reporters. "I don't know when normal will occur. I know this, we've learned to operate in a difficult environment and we'll do it again."

He did note the move to online meetings could continue beyond this year regardless.

"Virtual is going to be a part of our life in the long term," he said.

However, some changes will not be permanent as the league tries to help players prepare for the 2021 season.

"There's value in training camp, value in practices, value in the preseason games," Goodell added.

While there were plenty of question marks about player safety throughout the 2020 season, the commissioner was proud of the league's process this year.

"We don't think there was a safer place to be than our NFL (team) facilities this year," he said.

The NFL had to postpone multiple games this year as a result of coronavirus outbreaks, while some teams were forced to play especially short-handed because of the protocols, but each team eventually completed its 16-game season and Super Bowl 55 is set to take place on schedule Sunday.

As for the championship game itself, Goodell is excited like the rest of us to watch the upcoming battle between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs—especially the quarterback matchup.

The commissioner praised Brady as he heads into his 10th Super Bowl.

"Tom Brady has shown that he's probably the greatest player to ever play the game," Goodell said. "His ability to rise to the big occasions, and I think everybody rises around him. That's what’s absolutely incredible to me."

Brady's battle against Patrick Mahomes will be the highlight of the biggest game of the year.