As soon as Herman Edwards heard the news, he shook his head consciously. If you know Edwards, one of the most passionate souls in the soccer training business, he shakes his head demonstratively.
When news emerged of the NFL’s plans to modify the “Rooney Rules,” which were instituted in 2003 to increase opportunities for minorities to become head coaches, Edwards immediately knew it was an idea with good intentions but came with a bad appearance.
With the “Rooney Rules” becoming increasingly ineffective in recent years – there are only three black head coaches among 32 coaches in the league today and, out of the last 20 recruitment of head coaches, only three are minorities – the initial NFL plan is to create weighted incentives for teams with vacancies to hire minority head coaches or general managers.
The incentive for teams hiring minority head coaches or GMs is an increase in the selection of a third round draft with six or 10 places.
“The first thing that crossed my mind was,‘ What did it look like? ” Edwards, former head coach of the Jets and current Arizona State coach, told The Post this week. “What’s the sound like? This is the National Soccer League. This should be the standard bearer on how things are done. And to give people incentives for not only interviewing men but also recruiting people? Nobody wants that.
“I don’t blame any owner for hiring anyone who wants to be hired. But to provide incentives, it just makes it awkward, friend. You don’t want to be hired under the cloud. It’s bad for the league, bad for the coach, bad for football.”
Fortunately, as soon as the proposed plan emerged the league owners chose to postpone the discussion later, perhaps recognizing the flaws cited by Edwards.
“I understand what they are trying to do, but I’m glad they submitted it,” Edwards said. “That would be a bad display.”
Edwards was hired by Jets owner Woody Johnson in 2001, before the “Rooney Rules” were born, but he said the league was in a different place at the time with the practice of recruiting head coaches.
“It was a defensive era, and many defensive people were employed,” Edwards recalled, quoting Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay, Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, Lovie Smith in Chicago and Mike Tomlin to Pittsburgh – all coaches with defensive backgrounds. “Now most of the times have turned to violations. Well, guess what? Who trains the quarterback and who is the offensive coordinator? There are not many colored men who practice these positions. ‘
Indeed, there are only two offensive coordinators in the league who are in the minority – Kansas City Eric Bieniemy and Byron Leftwich Tampa Bay.
“So if you are an owner and you think,” I have to help the quarterback, so I need an offensive head coach, “who are you going to interview?” Said Edwards. “If you look at the people who are hired now, they all come from the offensive coordinator / quarterback coach tree. And it’s not their fault. They are just training that position.”
A further problem – and perhaps deeper – is there is only one minority general manager in the NFL now, Chris Grier in Miami. And GMs, for the most part, are in charge of recruiting head coaches. Grier, it should be noted, employs one in three black head coaches currently in the league at Brian Flores.
Edwards remembers when the “Rooney Rules’ came in,” good intentions, “but too often now teams only interview minority candidates to check the box before moving to the candidates they are really interested in.
“Here’s the problem with that: If you are one of those people and in three years you have had 10 interviews and [aren’t hired], then the owner said, “This person has eight interviews and no one hired him, so why should I hire him?” Said Edwards. “That backfires on you.”
Edwards said he had an assistant coach look for his advice when they were called in for interviews for NFL coaching positions they knew they had no chance to land.
What if they reject the interview?
“That puts you in a bad place,” said Edwards. “If you don’t, they will say, ‘Well, we try to give him a chance.’ If you do, continue to do this transaction and don’t rent it, how does it look on your resume? You’re kind of stuck in this bad situation.
“I always say you have to see it like we see a player. This is a competitive environment. It should also be the same way when you hire a coach. The playing field must be level. ’’
Unfortunately, those days still seemed far from the Jets’ next trip to the Super Bowl.