Tomlin likes idea of incentivizing Rooney Rule

Mike Tomlin likes the discussion around an incentivized minority hiring process in the NFL.

On “Coffee with Cal,” hosted by Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari, on Monday morning, the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach said he likes the idea of a change to the Rooney Rule that rewards teams for hiring minority candidates.

“We’ve always taken it from the approach of, punitive if you don’t interview minority candidates or things of that nature,” said Tomlin, who is one of four minority head coaches in the NFL. “I just like the different approach in terms of spinning it 180 and talking about maybe incentivizing those that develop the talent and those that hire the talent.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean Tomlin is in favor of all the incentives recently discussed. NFL.com and ESPN reported earlier this month that owners were considering a proposal that would have improved teams’ third-round draft picks by 6 or 10 spots if they hired a minority candidate for vacant GM or head-coaching openings, along with other compensation for hiring minority candidates for roles like quarterbacks coach.

Those resolutions, though, were tabled during the a conference call last week that replaced the league’s annual May owners meetings.

“We’re making some adjustments because we’re acknowledging right now that the system is broken, that minorities are not getting enough opportunity,” Tomlin said. “And we’re trying to just figure out how to stimulate that. … I agree it’s debatable about the value placed on the incentivized plan, but I just generally like the discussion.”

The league did approve some new measures in that call with the goal of improving diversity in coaching and front-office hiring. Teams are now required to interview at least two candidates from outside their organization for any vacant head-coaching job and at least one minority candidate from outside their organization for any vacant offensive, defensive or special-teams coordinator job.

In the past, the Rooney Rule stipulated only one minority candidate be interviewed for head coach and none for a coordinator position.

The Rooney Rule was also expanded to some executive positions, requiring teams and the league office to interview “minorities and/or female applicants” for positions like team president and “senior executives in communications, finance, Human Resources, legal, football operations, sales, marketing, sponsorship, information technology and security.” And, to help strengthen the pool of candidates for minority head-coaching positions, every team is also required to establish a minority coaching fellowship program to “provide NFL Legends, minority and female participants with hands-on training in NFL coaching.”

Tomlin told Calipari that he will be talking with NBA coaches Tuesday about minority hiring.

“We have a problem with minority hiring, specifically in football,” Tomlin said. “But I guess that it’s an issue of minority hiring across a lot of industries and lines. I’m on with the NBA coaches tomorrow, actually, talking about things that are going on in our game with the Rooney Rule.”

Information from ESPN’s Dan Graziano was used in this report.