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Steelers’ Mike Tomlin supports NFL diversity incentives: ‘System is broken’

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin used to an unexpected venue to express his support for changing the NFL’s Rooney Rule.

Tomlin spoke Monday with Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari’s “Coffee with Cal” Facebook show.

The NFL is exploring the idea of allowing teams that hire minority head coaches or general managers to move up in the order for a future draft.

According to ESPN, Tomlin told Calipari, “We’ve always taken it from the approach of, punitive if you don’t interview minority candidates or things of that nature. 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.”

The NFL established the Rooney Rule in 2003, requiring teams to interview minority candidates for head-coaching jobs. In 2009, the league added the same stipulations for senior football operations jobs.

Last week, the Rooney Rule was expanded again, requiring teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for head-coaching openings, and at least one external minority candidate for vacancies at offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, general manager and senior football operation roles.

The NFL made another rule change last week, with teams no longer allowed to block assistant coaches from interviewing for coordinator positions. That move is viewed as another positive for minority candidates seeking to gain experience.

The league tabled a resolution that would see teams move up 10 places in the third round of the draft ahead of the second year under a newly hired minority GM. For newly hired minority head coaches, teams would get a six-place jump in the third round of the draft before his second season.

Should a team hire a minority head coach and GM in the same year, the rise would be 16 places in the third round — potentially into the second round.

Tomlin didn’t say he agrees with the letter of the tabled change, just the spirit.

Tomlin is joined by the Los Angeles Chargers’ Anthony Lynn, the Miami Dolphins’ Brian Flores and the Washington Redskins’ newly hired Ron Rivera as the NFL’s only minority head coaches.

“We’re making some adjustments because we’re acknowledging right now that the system is broken, that minorities are not getting enough opportunity,” Tomlin told Calipari, according to ESPN. “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.”

Last week, Lynn told CBS Radio of the draft-pick-incentive plan, “I think sometimes you can do the wrong thing while trying to do the right thing.”

Tony Dungy, the first African American to win a Super Bowl as a head coach, said last week of the draft-pick proposal, “I don’t think personally it’s the right thing to do. … I just have never been in favor of rewarding people for doing the right thing. And so I think there’s going to be some unintended consequences.”

Tomlin and Calipari touched on other topics, including the potential for football to be played this fall without fans in the stands due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m really interested in the emotional [impact] in those significant moments, and seeing and feeling what that means,” Tomlin said, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Tomlin wasn’t a fan of holding recent offseason team meetings online.

“You don’t get the feeling you get when you’re teaching somebody,” he said, according to the Herald-Leader. “You’re sitting in the room with them, and you feel their body language. [You sense] ‘Yeah, that guy gets it.'”

They also turned their attention to the upcoming Kentucky college basketball season, with Calipari telling Tomlin, per the newspaper, “My worry right now … is I have one player returning from last year.”

Tomlin reportedly replied with a laugh, “You love that challenge.”

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