By design or not, the NFL took an exclusionary turn last year. And the commissioner noticed.
Eight teams had coaching vacancies after the 2012 season. All eight filled them with white candidates.
“Not acceptable,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during Super Bowl week. And he meant it.
Goodell formed the Career Development Advisory Committee, a panel of respected former coaches and executives dedicated to finding the best ascendant talent regardless of race. The goal was to shine a light on those who have otherwise been overlooked.
The group created a list of potential targets for teams in need of head coaches or general managers. The Dolphins are such a team, with a need for the latter.
And they have identified at least seven candidates — including three who are black, and a fourth (Steelers director of football administration Omar Khan) who is the son of a Honduran mother and Indian father. Some, if not all, of them were recommended by the NFL’s advisory committee.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Former Chiefs executive Carl Peterson is on the panel. He also is leading the Dolphins’ search.
When Dolphins owner Stephen Ross asked Peterson, his friend and confidant, to find the best person to replace Jeff Ireland as GM, he couldn't have asked for someone any more prepared. Peterson has been scouting the field, on behalf of the league, for some time.
“Carl’s incredibly knowledgeable, with vast experience in football,” said Robert Gulliver, the NFL’s head of human resources who lead the advisory committee project. “He has tremendous insights that are helpful to many.”
Peterson has suggested a broad, ambitious slate of candidates for the Dolphins’ opening. Khan, Dolphins assistant general manager Brian Gaine and Cardinals vice president of player personnel Jason Licht already have interviewed for the job.
Browns assistant GM Ray Farmer interviewed Saturday. NFL.com reported that Titans vice president of player personnel Lake Dawson also will sit down with Ross this weekend.
Eagles executive Tom Gamble and Giants vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross also are on Miami’s radar.
In short, the Dolphins have gone above and beyond the requirements of the Rooney Rule, which mandates teams interview at least one minority candidate for top openings.
“I'm very happy with that slate of candidates,” said John Wooten, who is chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance — the group responsible for promoting minority applicants.
Added Wooten: “Last year, I think the teams simply did not put forth a real commitment that they were going to do it this way. They sort of played a game that we were very disappointed with. I think they felt that they didn't have to do what they’re doing now. The league made a real effort to say, ‘Hey, this is something that is important to us as a league. We want it done the right way.’ ”
The advisory committee deserves at least some of the credit. Gulliver said NFL owners have been “very interested” in the panel’s recommendations, with several general manager candidates identified by the group getting interviews.
The next step, in the views of many, is to not only get interviews for qualified minority candidates, but to get them hired.
“That process is up to the people who make the decision,” Wooten said. “We know that [the candidates] have the ability. It’s not in our court; we don’t get involved in calling and pushing. We’ve done the things we agreed to do, to make sure [the candidates are] prepared.”