The NFL and its clubs have created many programs to promote inclusion in coaching and front office roles — programs that go well beyond the Rooney Rule. By nurturing a more diverse pool of coaches and executives, the NFL makes the game stronger and more inclusive, and can ultimately render the Rooney Rule unnecessary.
“We should be creating a workplace culture that doesn’t require mandates to interview people of color and minorities," said Troy Vincent, Sr., Executive Vice President of NFL Football Operations. "They should be doing the right thing for the right reasons, not because there’s a policy.”
Although hiring decisions are made by owners of all 32 NFL clubs, the league is working to expand the pool of diverse candidates available during each hiring cycle. Through these initiatives, the league provides more opportunities for diverse coaching and front office candidates.
Each year, all 32 NFL clubs hire candidates for the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship. The fellowship is administered by each club and lasts throughout training camp and the preseason. Candidates are selected based on NFL playing experience or coaching experience in high school, college, or professional football.
The Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship exposes qualified men and women to a career in professional scouting. Open to former college and professional players and college football scouts, the fellowship introduces them to various aspects of college and professional scouting within an NFL club. The fellowship is named after Bill Nunn, Pro Football Hall of Fame member and longtime personnel director for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and John Wooten, an NFL Legend and front-office executive.
In 2021, Ashton Washington became the Chicago Bears’ first full-time female scout after joining the organization through the Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship. Washington previously worked for the University of Illinois and Texas Tech University. She now serves as the Bears’ player personnel coordinator.
To provide increased opportunities for leading coaching candidates, the NFL has partnered with three leading college all-star games:
Promoting networking opportunities is a key component of the NFL’s long-term efforts to promote fair and inclusive hiring practices.
“Networking is currency for professional mobility in the NFL,” said Troy Vincent, Executive VP of NFL Football Operations. “It allows people to get to know one another, build trust, and share goals and aspirations. And it is the key to matching experience with job opportunities.”
The league hosted its inaugural Coach and Front Office Accelerator at the 2022 Spring League Meeting in Atlanta. The program provides experienced female and minority prospects with leadership development sessions and time to network directly with club owners.
Each club nominated rising prospects to participate in the inaugural two-day program, which brought together more than 60 diverse head coach and general manager prospects with ownership representatives from all 32 clubs.
“The (Accelerator) program helps ensure that clubs receive exposure to high-performing, up-and-coming NFL talent, and candidates get a chance to learn the business on a working level from team owners and executives.” — Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner
The Quarterback Coaching Summit provides a platform to help prepare, educate and identify quality minority candidates for offensive and quarterback coaching positions. The summit, presented in partnership with the Black College Football Hall of Fame, boasts alumni including Minnesota Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Assistant Marcus Brady, and Houston Texans Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton.
The Ozzie Newsome General Manager Forum gives diverse front office candidates the opportunity to learn from and network with top executives from around the league. The forum, founded in 2021, is presented in partnership with the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
“The Ozzie Newsome General Manager Forum and Quarterback Coaching Summit are part of our ongoing efforts to establish a cultural norm of opportunity for all," said Vincent, Sr. "It's a steadfast commitment to developing a diverse and inclusive workforce.”
The Women’s Careers in Football Forum helps the NFL identify women currently working in college football roles to join its next generations of leaders. The Forum includes two days of panel discussions, presentations and breakout sessions. Participants learn from and connect with team owners, general managers, coaches and executives in the NFL and in college football programs.
Six full-time coaches and nine coaching fellows will be on the sidelines for 10 clubs at the beginning of the 2022 season. Of the 15 women coaches, 12 have participated in the Women’s Careers in Football Forum.
The NFL is dedicated to increasing opportunities for students and administrators from HBCUs. The HBCU Careers in Football Forum provides HBCU students and entry-level athletic department staff members the chance to learn about careers in the sports industry and the NFL. The 2021 event convened over 170 participants from 43 HBCUs.
Inclusion makes the game stronger, and the programs dedicated to building a more inclusive game have set the NFL on a path towards a more inclusive future.
Of the 722 on-field coaches in the NFL during the 2022 season, 314 (43.5%) identify as non-white, which is believed to be the largest figure in NFL history.
The league tracks its progress through the annual Diversity and Inclusion Report, which provides an overview and analysis of occupational mobility patterns in the NFL. The report is prepared by Dr. C. Keith Harrison of the University of Central Florida, who analyzes occupational access barriers and mobility patterns of NFL general managers, offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators and other primary NFL team position coaches.
In some cases, updates to league rules help to facilitate greater inclusion in hiring. In 2020 and 2021, the NFL expanded the Rooney Rule to raise the bar for coaching and front office hiring.
In 2022, the league announced a new requirement that all teams must employ a female or minority coach as an offensive assistant. Candidates with three or more years of collegiate or professional experience are eligible. Each offensive assistant is hired for a full year-long contract.