NFL says teams can’t interview employed head coach candidates until after wild-card weekend

ATLANTA-The NFL modified its head coach hiring process at this week’s spring meetings with a resolution that prohibits interviews with candidates employed by a team until the conclusion of wild-card weekend.

The change is intended to give head-coaching candidates and teams extra time to prepare for interviews. Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said the league gathered feedback from coaches who felt rushed trying to prepare for interviews between late-season games and the playoffs. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the change also “slows down the pace” for teams in terms of finding the right candidate.

The league also expands the Rooney Rule to quarterback coaches. Now, at least one minority candidate must interview for that position.

This week, the NFL is hosting more than 60 future minority general manager or head coach candidates as part of a diversity accelerator program.

The candidates got valuable face time with NFL ownership in meetings and mixers over two days in Atlanta. Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn found those interactions, well, priceless.

“There are not a lot of differences. Their bank accounts are bigger than mine,” Glenn said. “But other than that, there aren’t a lot of differences. … I could see this event going on for years.”

Carolina Panthers vice president of football administration Samir Suleiman said owners were approachable and engaged, and that he earned a key job reference from an NFL owner. Kelly Kleine, executive director of football operations and special advisor to the general manager for the Denver Broncos, said a key takeaway from the week is to be authentic and open to learn.

NFL owners lament that the league is falling short on diversity at the highest levels. Despite progress at coordinator and general manager positions, just five of 32 NFL head coaches are minorities – Miami’s Mike McDaniel, the New York Jets’ Robert Saleh, Washington’s Ron Rivera, Houston’s Lovie Smith and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin.

In most cases, candidates are getting interview opportunities but not the job.

Blank said he hopes the accelerator program is a “wonderful stepping stone” for these candidates, because relationships were built this week.

“We understand there are shortfalls, and we have to be intentional and work harder on key issues where we have a ways to go,” Blank said.

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