Creation of a new playbook. Specialization with intentionality. Identify and identify game changers. Trust the process.
It’s not just how winning teams are assembled in the NFL. This is also how inclusive front offices are built.
It sounds simple. It’s not. In fact, it’s been a long road to get to where we are today, with 43% of chief executive positions filled by minority candidates in 2021.
This is significant and historic progress. But there’s still work to be done – another round of hiring is upon us. If we stay diligent, we can get to a place where a tool like the Rooney Rule, which requires clubs to interview at least two external minority applicants, will be useless.
Why haven’t we seen more colored GMs since the league’s first black GM, the great Ozzie Newsome? Anecdotally, we’ve found that clubs, when looking for a new chief executive, often focus on skills that are typically found in a head coach. While the general manager position is very different with the necessary strengths in accounting, personnel management and other highly specialized fields.
Moreover, the clubs were simply unaware of the excellent color frames that were under the radar. Since then, we’ve cultivated a path that brings top candidates from diverse backgrounds to NFL clubs.
This process includes a committee of representatives from the Black College Football Hall of Fame, the Fritz Pollard Alliance and former chief executives, who evaluate all possible candidates. The committee selects the best prospects and invites them to the Ozzie Newsome CEO forum. The forum provides educational and networking opportunities, raising awareness for clubs that may be looking for new talent.
NFL Football Operations is also working with the committee to identify top GM candidates to share with clubs, recruit consultants and agents. These perspectives, distributed towards the end of each season, include both race and gender. Accountability is introduced into the process, as data is collected and tracked on the number of interviews and job offers. This ensures that minority candidates are seen and given serious consideration.
The results have been encouraging. Only two clubs had black general managers on the payroll for the 2020 hiring cycle. In 2021, that number more than doubled – three black candidates filled seven vacant general manager positions – and 28 of the 59 candidates surveyed belonged to minorities.
For example, the Detroit Lions, whose hiring committee tapped into these new tools last winter. Brad Holmes, a longtime Los Angeles Rams executive, now runs Detroit’s front office. But he was not on the team’s initial list of candidates. The process brought to light Holmes’ prominent credentials.
Since being hired, Holmes has spoken about the need to further strengthen the pipeline by identifying and developing candidates of color. Yes, there is more work to do. But we are making significant progress – and we hope the number of minority CEOs will continue to rise.
Additionally, we consider it only a matter of time before a woman will make history as the first female in the league to hold the GM title. (The Philadelphia Eagles’ Susan Tose Spencer took on interim general manager responsibilities in the early 1980s.) Several elite candidates are knocking on the door, and women are also rising through the ranks of coaches, officials, and board positions. direction.
As of this writing, three NFL clubs are being interviewed to fill their general manager openings. And they bring diverse sets of candidates.
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Glenn Cook and Champ Kelly — all aspiring general managers of color, two of whom are outside candidates — have previously interviewed for the Chicago Bears vacancy. And several others, including Morocco Brown, Omar Khan, Reggie McKenzie and JoJo Wooden, are said to be on the club’s roster.
The Bears are on course to surpass the Rooney Rule standard, which has been expanded to require at least two interviews, one of which must be in person, with outside minority GM candidates.
The New York Giants interviewed Ran Carthon, Ryan Poles, Quentin Harris and Adrian Wilson, doubling the minimum set by Rooney’s rule. Meanwhile, Catherine Raiche will become the first known woman to interview for a general manager job in the NFL when she meets the Minnesota Vikings.
We are committed to creating an inclusive workplace culture by building accountability into the process and encouraging decision makers to do the right thing for the right reasons. We’re reimagining hiring practices to drive more informed decisions. It is about intentionally normalizing fairness, inclusivity and opportunity as an extension of football for all.
Troy Vincent Sr. is executive vice president of football operations for the NFL.