As he does every year, Roger Goodell covered a wide range of topics during his annual state of the league press conference Thursday leading up to the Super Bowl, addressing several issues that could potentially affect the Broncos.
No topic was brought up more than the lack of diversity among NFL head coaches. Goodell and the NFL have attempted to push teams to interview and hire more people of color by instituting the Rooney Rule, a policy that was implemented to force teams to interview minority candidates. In May 2020, the NFL made a change to the Rooney Rule requiring teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for head coach positions and at least one minority candidate for coordinator positions.
This offseason, there were seven head coaching openings and only two teams — the New York Jets with Robert Saleh and the Houston Texans with David Culley — that hired minorities.
“It wasn’t what we expected. It’s not what we expect going forward. We have to look at what went right and what went wrong," Goodell said. "They’re not the outcomes we wanted. We want it to be a natural process. I'm not sure there is an issue we spent more time working with our ownership on. Our ownership is committed and focused on this.
"It's much broader than just head coaches for us."
Goodell pointed out that several teams hired minorities in the front office for their GM openings, including the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions. Broncos CEO and President Joe Ellis said during Denver's search for a GM that it would be "very important" to have minority candidates for the position, which they found in Chicago's Champ Kelly and now Atlanta GM Terry Fontenot.
The Broncos ended up choosing Minnesota's George Paton, who stated in his opening press conference that diversity in the front office and on the coaching staff will be one of his top priorities.
“There will be a big emphasis on diversity within our scouting departments, within this organization, and it starts from the top," Paton said. "It starts from me and Joe, and so there will be a big emphasis on that. We will have a developmental program in place for diversity, and I think it’s huge. Diverse thought [helps] you make better decisions, and we’re going to have a diverse staff.”
More than 80% of the Broncos' executives and coaches are white men, after losing defensive backs coach Renaldo Hill to the Chargers, where he'll serve as defensive coordinator. It was announced on Thursday, though, that the Broncos have hired Chris Cook, a person of color, to be their offensive quality control coach.
Still, the Broncos and the NFL have made it a point that they want to improve in this area.
"We’re getting better as an organization," Ellis said, "but we’re not where we need to be."
Goodell also addressed what the NFL's offseason will look like this spring and summer, after NFLPA president and Cleveland Brown JC Tretter said there is "no reason for us to ever return to the previous offseason program."
Goodell did say some things will again be different this offseason, but didn't give a direct answer what exactly the draft, minicamps and preseason games will look like, or if any of those things will actually happen in person.
"We anticipate that a lot of the things we did last year," Goodell said. "With respect to training camps, with respect to the offseason — virtual is going to part of our life for the long-term. I think we learned, the coaches learned, the players learned, that it was actually a very positive way to install offenses and to work in the offseason. So I think we'll see more of that, for sure.
"I know this, we’ve learned to operate in a difficult environment and we’ll do it again."
Vaccinated fans in 2021?
The vaccine will certainly play a role in how the NFL operates in 2021 and maybe even affect fans who want to attend games next season. The NFL is allowing 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers at the Super Bowl, and Goodell was asked Thursday if only vaccinated fans would be allowed at games next season.
"It's too early to say whether vaccines will be part of the solution; we expect that they will," Goodell said. "We will work with local health officials and medical experts, that if we do have opportunities to bring fans back into the stands next year, how do we do that safely?
"We hope much of our society will be vaccinated by the summer, because it's in the best interest of our country and the health of our people."
Broncos headed to London in 2021?
The Broncos were supposed to travel to London to play the Falcons last season, but due to COVID-19 the game was moved to Atlanta. Goodell addressed if the league would play international games in 2021, saying they certainly hope so, but gave no indication on which teams would be selected to play those games.
"We obviously are going to stay in close contact with our partners in the U.K. and in Mexico and make sure we are doing that safely," Goodell said. "If at any point in time we don't think we can execute on it safely, we will make that determination."
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