In the NFL, January is the month for two mini-seasons: playoff season and coach hiring season. Coordinators and college coaches are evaluated and discussed, and some of them get the chance to become NFL head coaches. Every year, happily, more diversity is added to the pool of either current or former head coaches. Last year, Todd Bowles got his first crack with the Jets, and this year, Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is seemingly in talks for his second head coaching gig. And yet, the pool from which to draw those candidates remains disappointingly small.
A newly-published academic study shared by ESPN examined the source of the problem, and you don’t have to go far to find it: though the Rooney Rule ensures that non-white coaches are (at least superficially) considered for every head coaching position, no such protection exists for coordinators.
The study, published by researchers from Emory, Georgetown, George Washington, and Iowa State universities, concludes that controlling for all other factors, white positional coaches are 114 percent more likely to be promoted to coordinator from a positional coaching spot. That’s hugely significant, considering that coordinators get far more exposure and recognition, and thus consideration for head coaching gigs. In other words, when the Rooney Rule doesn’t apply, the systemic bias against non-white coaches is still allowed to prevail, giving white coaches more than twice the chances as black coaches.