Ravens executive Ozzie Newsome was the first African American general manager in the NFL, and on Friday, he weighed in on the leadership opportunities available to African Americans in the league amid increasing chatter that the Rooney Rule needs to change.
The Rooney Rule requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior front office openings. Despite plentiful coaching and management openings this year, no African American candidates have been hired.
There are currently only three African American head coaches - Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, and Minnesota’s Leslie Frazier.
However, Newsome believes the opportunity is there for African Americans to be hired.
“Yes it is. You can look at the fact that I am the third of the GMs that have been (to the Super Bowl). Rod Graves had a chance to go with Arizona and Jerry Reese has been to two, so we’ve had our opportunity there,” he said. “We’ve had African American coaches that have had the opportunity. You know what? Would we like for the numbers to be better?
“I’ve had conversations among the diversity working group committee myself that Commissioner (Paul Tagliabue) put me on years ago. Are we going work to get better? Yes. But all we can do is to put people in front of people. Mike Tomlin got in front of the Rooneys and got that job and I can remember way back 18, 19 years ago that all we were asking from the commissioner and the owners was just to give us a chance to get in front of you.
“I think that opportunity is there. I’d like for African Americans to get an opportunity, but John Harbaugh is a good football coach and Jim Harbaugh is a good football coach, and Rob Chudzinski is a good football coach. So they’re not making bad decisions. There’s just a good pool of candidates out there that people have to choose from.”
The Ravens announced this week that offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will be back with the team this year. Caldwell, who served as Indianapolis Colts head coach from 2009-11, didn’t receive a single interview for one of the NFL’s eight coaching openings this offseason.
Newsome defended his GM colleagues on Friday, explaining why.
“One of the nice things of being at the Senior Bowl is that I got the chance to be around a lot of the GMs,” Newsome said. “And I have a couple of GMs tell me, ‘If it wasn’t for your guys’ success in the playoffs, that he would have been someone that we would have interviewed.’ So I can see going forward - hopefully next year we’ll be in the same spot and it will be tough for him to get interviews again. But I can see him getting that opportunity a year from now.”