Dasha Smith took a lot of interest this week in the list of interview requests generated by NFL teams with general manager or coaching positions. The NFL’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer, who is responsible for the league’s talent and diversity strategies, is encouraged by the long lists of candidates.
“It looks promising. I’ll say that,” Smith said Thursday in a phone interview. “I think we just have to go through the process to really know where we’re going to end up. I monitor it by the minute, as you can imagine, but we see clubs with openings interviewing many different types of candidates.
The Broncos, for example, have scheduled 10 remote interviews for their vacant head coaching position, and the Giants are talking to at least nine GM prospects.
The NFL, alongside the Fritz Pollard Alliance, has worked hard to open the minds of those who hire.
“One of the ways we’ve tried to address this, frankly, is to educate all of our clubs and our league office to be open-minded about what the ‘right’ candidate looks like? And maybe you need to expand that thinking,” Smith said. “We’ve done everything from the unconscious biases we’ve all done, but very targeted to helping people really understand themselves and their mindset and have a more open mind when it comes to enlargement. networking and thinking about leadership on the ground in a different way and what it looks like. I think we’ve made progress there. We saw more diverse contestants interviewed last season, and we hope to see that this season. Obviously, I think people think about it differently.
The league is serious about improving diversity, which is why it hired Smith from Sony Music Entertainment in 2019. But the NFL can’t tell teams who to hire. All they can do is suggest qualified candidates, and they do this with a targeted list of diverse aspirants as well as a broader list that includes non-minorities.
For the first time, a female executive will interview for a position of general manager. The Vikings have asked to speak to the Eagles’ vice president of football operations, Catherine Raiche, for their position as general manager. Raiche is the highest ranked woman working in an NFL personnel department.
The NFL revamped its Rooney Rule for this hiring round, requiring interviews with two external minority candidates for all general manager and coordinator positions. This reflects the requirement to hire head coaches. Additionally, teams must conduct at least one in-person interview with a minority candidate for all head coach and general manager openings.
But it remains to be seen whether the tweaks help improve the disparity in the coaching ranks and front office. Since 2003, non-whites have held just 21% of head coaching positions, according to the Associated Press. That’s 27 jobs in a sport where 70% of players are black.
The league had three black head coaches in 2021, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is the only one left this week after the Dolphins fired Brian Flores and the Texans fired David Culley.
The NFL has eight head coaching vacancies and three general manager openings.
“There is no finish line in this job,” Smith said. “There really aren’t any, and I don’t think it will ever happen. We have a long way to go here. We still have a long way to go to focus on minority candidates, on black candidates, on all kinds of diverse candidates. We want to make sure that everyone has equal access to this process, that clubs consider all different types of applicants. The league office has no say in who they hire, but we want to make sure they’ve given a lot of thought to being open to maybe a different type of leader than they’ve hired in the league. past if they haven’t had a diverse coach or general manager”