Since 2009, almost 40% of head coaches hired in the National Football League were offensive coordinators prior to their appointment, the most of any feeder position. Rooney did that to perfection with this 21-minute State of the Steelers address with a handful of reporters Wednesday at the facility named after his late father - the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
"I think in general when you look at this year's process, and like I said, we're going sit down and look at it early. The first thing we'll do as part of our diversity committee is really review this past season's hiring cycle and make sure we understand what went on and talk to the people involved both on the owners side, management's side as well as the people that were interviewed". But the league has come under fire after the current hiring cycle ended with only one minority candidate hired as a head coach.
"The thing I think we have to look at is back when the Rooney Rule was passed and put in effect in 2003, there was a period there where we did see an increase in minority hiring at the head coaching position", Rooney said. In almost his next breath, the team president and owner praised the head coach who led the Steelers through it. "Since then that trend seems to reversed itself, particularly in the last few years". But in recent seasons, there haven't been many ethnic-minority candidates hired in any of the prominent roles in the NFL. "This time previous year, we made some changes to the Rooney Rule and we required the interview to come from somebody outside the organization because we didn't it to be an internal situation where somebody down the hall was called down to the office for an interview".
One idea Rooney discussed was expanding the policy to include coordinator positions and other levels of coaching. "Why aren't more of those people advancing through the process, '" Rooney said.
But that doesn't mean Rooney was unhappy with the job offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner did in 2019, when he also served as the quarterbacks coach. That's really not a bad pipe line.
Rooney took 35 questions from seven reporters and covered a wide range of topics from being impressed with the job Mike Tomlin did this year, to the difficulty of evaluating the team after suffering so many injuries, to acknowledging the Steelers likely will have to play in the Hall of Fame game and take part in Hard Knocks. "There are a lot of pieces to it that we have to look at, and we have a lot of work to do to do that". The NFL player population is comprised approximately 70% minorities and the coaching ranks are far from a reflection of that number.
"We had one I'll call it unusual experience and I think it was that, an unusual experience", Rooney said. "I think running the ball is a factor - it should be". I can tell you: "This is a real concern of the Commissioner and the league". "He was a known commodity for us, and we liked some of the work that he has done, so we are happy to have him on board".