'We are not where we want to be,' Roger Goodell says of minority head coaching hires
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'We are not where we want to be,' Roger Goodell says of minority head coaching hires

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during a news conference ahead of Super Bowl LIV at the Hilton Downtown in Miami on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during a news conference ahead of Super Bowl LIV at the Hilton Downtown in Miami on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Anthony Behar/Sipa USA/TNS)

MIAMI - The NFL has a problem and the man leading the league is aware of it.

The past hiring cycle saw no African-American hires despite Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy interviewing for at least three head coach vacancies. San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who is of Lebanese descent, also didn't land a head coach position after interviewing with the Cleveland Browns.

The one potential saving grace? Washington hired Ron Rivera, who became the lone minority head coach hire out of five available spots.

As of now, Rivera, the Steelers' Mike Tomlin, the Dolphins' Brian Flores and the Chargers' Anthony Lynn are the only minority head coaches in the NFL.

"Clearly, we are not where we want to be," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday during his annual Super Bowl address. "We have a lot of work that's gone into not only the Rooney Rule but our policies overall. It's clear we need to change and do something different.

"There's no reason to expect we're going to have a different outcome next year without those kinds of changes and we've already begun engaging in those changes. Not just with our diversity committee, not just with the Fritz Pollard Alliance, but others. And trying to figure out what steps we could take next that would lead to better outcomes."

The discussions on the lack of diversity among head coaches are likely to pick up in high gear when the league holds its annual owners' meeting in late March, two months after the last round of hires.

"From a league standpoint, we've not been together since the hiring cycle," Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said Tuesday. "The first time we're together will be in March and I know that will be a topic of discussion."

When the meetings begin, Goodell pointed to a dedication among the league's top decision makers on finding a solution for a league where an overwhelming number of players are minorities.

"It's clear we're all committed to doing that and we have to make those changes," Goodell said. "So, we will have a series of meetings, which we've already scheduled, over the next month to get that kind of dialogue going, to continue the dialogue to try to determine what are the solutions so we can have those better outcomes."

Meanwhile, Bieniemy will need to wait another year for another opportunity to interview despite interviewing for a known seven head coach vacancies over the past two years.

When it comes remains to be seen, but Bieniemy has the full support of his organization as the Chiefs prepare to play the 49ers in the Super Bowl and beyond.

"I was very disappointed for Eric," Hunt said. "From a Chiefs perspective, of course we're delighted that he's going to be back."

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid agreed on Bieniemy sticking around, especially with the Super Bowl in the coming days, and then added his continued unwavering support for Bieniemy to one day lead his own team.

"I really don't think he needs to work on anything to become a head football coach," Reid said Wednesday. "I think he's ready to go. He just needs that opportunity."

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Hunt on Tuesday expressed optimism over the collective bargaining agreement, which expires in a year. Goodell said he wouldn't discuss with the media where the discussion currently stands, but gave a glowing remark on the process.

"We've been having incredibly productive dialogue," Goodell said. "I think we've made a lot of progress now seven or eight months since we began those discussions more formally. In those discussions it's been open dialogue. It's been thoughtful.

"I think we've addressed difficult issues that face our league going forward and looking forward. I think both the players and management and everyone at the negotiation have worked to try to find creative solutions to make the NFL better and that's what you want. The process will close when the process closes, when all of us feel comfortable that we've reached an agreement, that we want to go forward with it. I don't know when that will be but I think it's more important to get it right."

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Goodell announced that the NFL will return to Mexico City in 2020 and 2021 to play at Estadio Azteca as part of the NFL International Series.

"We had a great experience this past November down in Mexico," Goodell said. "It was just a great event and we loved being there. We look forward to being back and we are proud to be able to say we're going to be there for two more games over the next two years. Our fan base down there continues to grow and become more passionate. Our partners down there have been extraordinary and we want to continue that. We want to build on that."

The Chiefs defeated the Chargers, 24-17, in Mexico City in Week 11 of the 2019 regular season.

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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