Herman Edwards on NFL’s diversity proposal: ‘No one wants that’

As soon as Herman Edwards heard the news, he shook his head knowingly. If you know Edwards, one of the most passionate souls in the football coaching business, he shook his head demonstratively.

When word emerged about the NFL’s plan to modify the “Rooney Rule,’’ which was instituted in 2003 to increase opportunities for minorities to become head coaches, Edwards knew right away it was an idea with good intentions but came with a bad look.

With the “Rooney Rule’’ having become increasingly less effective in recent years — there are just three black head coaches among the 32 in the league currently and, of the past 20 head-coaching hires, only three have been minorities — the NFL’s initial plan was to create a weighted incentive for teams with vacancies to hire a minority head coach or general manager.

That incentive to teams that hired a minority head coach or GM was an improvement in its third-round draft picks by six or 10 spots.

“The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘What does that look like?’ ” Edwards, the former Jets head coach and current Arizona State coach, told The Post this week. “What does that even sound like? This is the National Football League. This is supposed to be the standard bearer of how things are done. And to incentivize people for not only interviewing guys but hiring guys? No one wants that.

“I don’t blame any owner for hiring whoever he wants to hire. But to incentivize it, it just makes it awkward, man. You don’t want to get hired under that cloud. It’s bad for the league, it’s bad for the coach, it’s just bad for football.’’

Fortunately, soon after that proposed plan surfaced league owners opted to hold off on it for later discussion, perhaps recognizing the very flaws that Edwards cited.

“I understand what they were trying to do, but I’m glad they tabled it,’’ Edwards said. “That would have been a bad look.’’

Edwards was hired by Jets owner Woody Johnson in 2001, before the “Rooney Rule’’ was born, but he said the league was in a different place back then with its head-coach hiring practices.

“That was a defensive era, and a lot of defensive guys got hired,’’ Edwards recalled, citing Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay, Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, Lovie Smith in Chicago and Mike Tomlin to Pittsburgh — all coaches with defensive backgrounds. “Now the era has flipped for the most part to an era of offense. Well, guess what? Who coaches the quarterbacks and who are the offensive coordinators? They’re not many guys of color that coach those positions.’’

Indeed, there are just two offensive coordinators in the league who are minorities — Kansas City’s Eric Bieniemy and Tampa Bay’s Byron Leftwich.

“So, if you’re an owner and you’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to help the quarterback so I need an offensive head coach,’ who are you going to interview?’’ Edwards said. “If you look at the guys who are getting hired now, they’re all coming off that offensive coordinator/quarterback coach tree. And that’s not their fault. They just coach the position.’’

A further — and perhaps deeper — problem is there’s only one minority general manager in the NFL right now, Chris Grier in Miami. And it’s the GMs, for the most part, who are in charge of hiring the head coaches. Grier, it should be noted, hired one of the three current black head coaches in the league in Brian Flores.

Edwards recalled when the “Rooney Rule’’ came in, “its intentions were good’’ but too often now teams simply are interviewing a minority candidate to check the box before moving onto the candidates they’re truly interested in.

“Here’s the problem with that: If you’re one of those guys and in three years you’ve had 10 interviews and [aren’t hired], then the owners are saying, ‘This guy’s had eight interviews and no one’s hired him, so why should I hire him?’ ’’ Edwards said. “That backfires on you.’’

Edwards said he’s had assistant coaches seek his advice when they’ve been called to interview for NFL head-coaching positions they know they don’t have a chance of landing.

What if they turn the interview down?

“That puts you in a bad spot,’’ Edwards said. “If you don’t do it, then they’re going to say, ‘Well, we tried to give him the opportunity.’ If you do it, keep doing these deals and don’t get hired, how does that look on your rèsumè? You’re kind of caught in this bad situation.

“I’ve always said you’ve got to look at it like we look at players. It’s a competitive environment. That should be also the same way when you hire a coach. The playing field should be level.’’

Those days, unfortunately, seemingly remain as far off as the next Jets trip to a Super Bowl.

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NFL’s offseason events can’t hide grim coronavirus question

We all keep our fingers crossed for any kind of professional sports season, but especially for an NFL season.

The release of the NFL schedule on Thursday night allows us to close our eyes and imagine possibilities that stand on the opposite end of the spectrum from quarantine and social distancing and a virtual America engulfed in a living hell.

If there will be some kind of season, the likelihood is it will be played in empty or near-empty stadiums, and as eerie as that may be, we will welcome the NFL back with open arms and hold it tight for as long as COVID-19 will allow it.

The question: Will COVID-19 allow it?

Will there be an NFL season?
Are all of us — Roger Goodell’s NFL and Football America — simply hoping against hope?

No one, of course, knows. Not Roger Goodell, not Dr. Anthony Fauci, no one.

Hoping against hope, in the absence of a vaccine, is the only hope we can possibly have right now.

The NFL has been plowing full-speed ahead like Jim Brown: It kept the start of the legal tampering portion of free agency on March 16 — four days after the NBA canceled games after Rudy Gobert of the Jazz tested positive for coronavirus, the NCAA canceled March Madness and MLB canceled spring training and postponed the start of the regular season by at least two weeks.

And even as the free-agency frenzy began, as we began to have the phrase “flatten the curve” hammered into our heads, as the desperate need for ventilators began to explode, the NFL was forced to cancel its grandiose Las Vegas draft plans.

The NFL was adamant — even in the face of some resistance within its own ranks that the optics weren’t right — the draft would be held, and though it was an historic Virtual NFL Draft, it proved to be an oasis in our desert of despair — from Goodell announcing picks from the basement of his Bronxville, N.Y., home, to Joe Burrow, to Abby Judge, Joe Judge’s golden retriever, and Nike, Bill Belichick’s Alaskan Klee Kai.

And now a full 16-game schedule release that guarantees nothing about a 16-game schedule.

It is practical business practice with the start of the NFL season still four months away, given the desire to keep sponsors engaged and, with viewership up 5 percent in 2019, TV networks already paying approximately $1 billion annually tripping over themselves to keep feeding the goose that lays the golden egg.

Each professional sports league must continue to confront the new normal as it hopes to open or reopen, and map out contingency plans for worst-case scenarios.

It feels inevitable that the rubber will meet the road for the NFL, too.

The threat of a second wave of COVID-19 washing over us in the fall is both sobering and frightening.

The NFL season is scheduled to begin Sept. 10.

Man, how much do we yearn to watch Tom Brady throwing to Rob Gronkowski in a Buccaneers uniform against Drew Brees on Sept. 13 in New Orleans? The jaw-dropping theatrics of Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson? Belichick coaching without Brady?

“The plan is to move forward as normal, to play a full season, a full schedule, until the medical community tells us otherwise,” NFL VP of football operations Troy Vincent told NFL Network.

Odell Beckham Jr. versus Dave Gettleman and the Giants? Viva Las Vegas for Jon Gruden’s Raiders? Philip Rivers as a Colt? Tua Tagovailoa in Miami? Burrow in Cincinnati? Big Ben Roethlisberger back in the Steelers’ saddle?

But we must also ask ourselves:

How many games will have to be canceled?

How many games will be played?

What happens if and when one player or coach is infected with the virus?

There is no social distancing in huddles, right?

Can we be certain that the testing, as rigorous as it will be, is foolproof?

So many questions, and no definitive answers.

So many need their fantasy football fix. So many crave NFL games to bet on. So many want to wear their Brady jerseys and their Mahomes jerseys and rally behind their team.

The NFL keeps moving the chains, keeps driving down the field.

But will it need a Hail Mary to give us an NFL as we have come to know and love it?

Will we even have Super Bowl LV? With or without fans?

We will keep hope alive. But we should also recognize that not even the mighty NFL has immunity from COVID-19.

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