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Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ hiring of Todd Bowles as head coach exposes major loophole in Rooney Rule

Jason Burgos

While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ decision to hire Todd Bowles as their new head coach, following the retirement of Bruce Arians, was a logical choice the move also exposes a major loophole in the NFL’s “Rooney Rule.”

What is the Rooney Rule?

The “Rooney Rule” has been a major topic in the league following the lawsuit former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed against the league and several organizations. For those still unfamiliar with the CBA amendment that was introduced in 2003, the rule was instituted to bring greater diversity to the management side of organizations by requiring them to interview at least two candidates of color, or women, for available coaching positions.

However, despite the existence of the “Rooney Rule” there hasn’t been a great deal of change in the diversity of coaches in the league. It is a major part of Flores’ suit and has led to another adjustment to the rule that was announced last week. Now, all 32 clubs must employ a female or a member of an ethnic or racial minority to serve as an offensive assistant coach. That individual hired will then receive a one-year contract and work under that team’s head coach and on the offensive staff to gain NFL experience.

Related: Bruce Arians retires, Todd Bowles head coach of Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Yet despite the league continuing to try and improve the rule that helps bring about greater representation in the NFL, there are still failings in the rule itself. One such loophole was exposed yesterday when the Buccaneers decided to make defensive coordinator Brian Bowles their news head coach.

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How the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Todd Bowles hire did not violate Rooney Rule

tampa bay buccaneers, todd bowles
Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This is not to say, Bowles was not a sensible choice, and promoting from within is something that should be applauded in any industry. However, the immediate hire avoided offering interviews to possible coaching candidates, including those of color and gender. Yet, the Bucs did not violate the “Rooney Rule” in making Bowles the new head coach. As Pro Football Talk NFL insider Mike Florio explained on Thursday, the rule pretty much stops after March 1.

“According to the NFL, the Rooney Rule doesn’t apply after March 1, because coaching staffs essentially become locked on March 1. The Buccaneers couldn’t conduct a search consisting of assistant coaches from other teams, because after March 1 teams are no longer required to allow assistant coaches to interview for head-coaching jobs,” Florio explained. “Thus, the Buccaneers were able to make a hire without interviewing at least two external minority candidates.

“The reaction to the utilization of this loophole surely would have been much different if Arians had been replaced by a white assistant coach. Quite possibly, the loophole would have been quickly closed if that had happened,” he added.

Obviously, this was far from a normal head coaching change scenario. Teams commonly search for new coaches immediately after the Super Bowl and have their top choice in place by January or February. However, a change after March 1 in the future is possible and likely. Meaning this loophole in the rule should be addressed post haste if the league would like to avoid further drama in regards to their lack of diversity in the coaching ranks.