Pete Carroll ‘Went Off’ on NFL Owners About Minority Hiring Practices at League Meetings

In February, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores dropped a bombshell lawsuit on the NFL for its hiring practices surrounding minority coaching candidates and treatment of minority coaches. The NFL has responded with a new policy, but at least one current head coach, the Seattle Seahawks Pete Carroll, doesn’t think it’s enough.

The longtime college and pro head coach “went off” during the league meetings last week. And some owners aren’t happy about it.

The NFL responded to the Brian Flores lawsuit by adding an offensive mandate 

Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks reacts during the second quarter of the game against the Washington Football Team in 2021. The coach recently took NFL owners to task over hiring practices.
Pete Carroll | Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It’s nearly impossible to read the Brian Flores lawsuit and not see that there is a problem with the NFL hiring minority head coaches. How to solve the problem is far less apparent, and fair-minded individuals can disagree on the best solutions.

The NFL is attempting to solve the problem with a new mandate on the offensive side of the ball. Black and minority coaches are much more prevalent on defense, while more head coaches generally come from the offensive side.

Of the six minority head coaches in 2022, five — Mike Tomlin, Ron Rivera, Robert Saleh, Lovie Smith, and Todd Bowles — have a defensive background. Only the multi-racial Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel comes from the offensive side.

To help even the playing field, the NFL is mandating that, for the 2022 season, all 23 teams must have at least one minority assistant — “a female or a member of an ethnic or racial minority” — on the offensive side, per ESPN.

The NFL owners also took steps to add women to the Rooney Rule, created a Diversity Advisory Committee, and “publicized a mission statement to encourage and attract diverse members of prospective ownership groups.”

However, the owners stopped short of requiring diversity in ownership groups.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll thinks this isn’t enough

Some, like Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II, are hailing these mandates and mission statements as positive steps in the right direction. However, others vehemently disagree. This includes Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

A day after the owners announced their updated initiatives, Carroll took to the podium to speak to a group of general managers and coaches, per ESPN. That’s where he “went off,” a source told ESPN’s NFL insider Adam Schefter:

He just went off. He was saying you can do anything, but until owners get to know these candidates before the actual interviews and understand that they have to hire people who are different than them, it’s not going to really change.

Anonymous sources on Pete Carroll at the NFL league meetings

Schefter reported that the speech was about 10 minutes long. But he did not say what the reaction in the room was. He did report that when the NFL owners learned what Carroll had said about them, they “weren’t happy.”

The Flores lawsuit is gaining steam

Two-plus months after Brian Flores filed his groundbreaking lawsuit against the NFL, the movement is gaining momentum. The NFL has responded, and (some) white advocates, like Pete Carroll, are speaking up and challenging NFL owners over their practices.

The lawsuit is also gaining plaintiffs, which means its gaining power. Two Black NFL coaches are adding their names to Flores’ complaint. One of these men is former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilkes. He currently serves as defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach for the Carolina Panthers. The other is Ray Horton, a longtime defensive assistant with several teams who is now retired.

The inclusion of Horton is particularly interesting. It comes with the recent unearthing of a 2020 interview with former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Mularkey.

The former head coach joined the Steelers Realm Podcast two years ago, and the hosts asked him what his biggest career regret was. Mularkey said it was being involved in the Titans’ 2016 hiring process that resulted in him getting the gig. He told the hosts it was a “fake hiring process” where minority coaches “had no chance to get the job,” per CBS Sports.

Horton was part of that interview process. And, ironically, when the Titans fired Mularkey in 2018, Wilkes interviewed for the job on the same day as former NFL linebacker Mike Vrabel, who got the job and still coaches the team in 2022.

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