What has really caused the lack of minority head coaches?
I've seen and heard a lot of people condemning the NFL for the absence of minorities from this year's head coaching hires. The Rooney Rule, which requires each team looking for a new head coach to interview at least one minority candidate, has completely failed to make a significant difference. NFL teams generally have their sights set on a candidate, then go through the motions of interviewing a minority candidate just to get it out of the way.
Given the Rooney Rule's poorly thought out structure, it came as no surprise to me that no minority candidates were hired as head coaches in the NFL this year. Here's why:
Most NFL head coaches come from NFL coordinator positions. Being a successful NFL coordinator not only proves that you have a great deal of knowledge of the game, but also proves that you have first-hand experience with the pressures of game-planning and controlling a large group of players. There were 60 offensive/defensive coordinators in the NFL last season. 53 of them were white, while only 7 of them were of minority groups.
With so few minority coordinators, the Rooney Rule can't be expected to get a significant amount of minority candidates into head coaching positions. 25 of the NFL's 32 current head coaches have coordinated an NFL offense or defense in their coaching careers, many of them going straight from NFL coordinator to NFL head coach.
In addition, six of those seven minority coordinators ran their teams' defenses. This also drastically decreases the chances of a minority coordinator getting a head coaching gig, as the style of the modern game has teams largely focused on offense - seven of this year's eight new head coaches specialize in offense. The one defensive-minded new head coach is Gus Bradley (now coach of the Jaguars), who began coordinating a Seahawks defense in 2009 that gave up the 8th most points in the league. In 2012, the Seahawks gave up the least points in the league. If a defensive coordinator was going to land a head coaching job, Bradley makes a lot of sense.
Of course, not all NFL head coaches come from coordinator positions. Some coaches come straight from NCAA head coaching jobs, such as recently hired Chip Kelly and Doug Marrone. Of the seven NFL head coaches who were not NFL coordinators, four of them were head coaches of Division I college football teams. In 2012, there were 15 African-American head coaches among the 119 NCAA football teams (I couldn't find the number for total minority head coaches).
You can't attack the top of a building and expect the whole thing to come tumbling down. To solve a problem, you have to attack its roots, and the Rooney Rule does not attack the roots of the NFL's minority head coach problem. There are simply far less minorities qualified to coach an NFL team than there are white qualified head coaching candidates. Most NFL head coaches have coordinated an NFL offense or defense, and the league's recent head coach hires have generally had offense in mind. With one minority offensive coordinator in the NFL last season (who ran the Buffalo Bills' 21st ranked offense), what else could you expect but an absence of minority head coach hires?
I'm not saying that I have a specific solution to this problem, because I don't, but I do know that the Rooney Rule is not getting the job done and never will on its own. The NFL and NCAA need to focus on getting more minorities into the mid-level positions, and that will give them more opportunities to be successful and work their way up to a more prominent role - hopefully an NFL head coaching position. Forcing NFL teams to interview unqualified candidates that they have no interest in is destined to be ineffective.