Vikings’ Pettine holds coaching diversity summit

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EAGAN, Minn. – Mike Pettine has long understood the problem: lack of diversity among NFL coaches. In the spring, he was inspired to do something about it.

Pettine, in her first season as Minnesota Vikings’ assistant head coach, this week hosted a three-day coaching diversity summit at the team’s headquarters, a program designed to increase the diverse pool of candidates for entry-level NFL jobs. Eleven men and one woman – Roseanna Smith, an assistant coach at Oberlin College – will spend their time attending fake interviews, learning the NFL’s culture, listening to coaching meetings, and working on an OTA practice.

Pettine originally hoped to implement the initiative when he was the Green Bay Packers’ defensive coordinator in 2020, but it was rejected after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The very basic premise of the program is really to feed the NFL graduate pool from the bottom up,” Pettine said.

A disappointing hiring cycle last winter left the league with just five minority head coaches, a result that Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged “lacked” the league’s goals. Among other initiatives, the league set up an advisory committee on diversity and announced the first hiring mandate in the history of its Rooney Rule. With head coach appointments coming predominantly from the offensive side of the ball in recent years, the league has required each team to hire a diverse candidate to act as an offensive assistant for the 2022 season. It is possible, Pettine said, that the Vikings’ hiring could be one of the 12 coaches spending this week in Minnesota.

“This gives us a great opportunity to evaluate it,” he said. “It was not sold that way, to get in and compete for a position. But it could very easily develop into that.”

There has been some progress throughout the league in recent years. An NFL record of 15 minorities is among the league’s defensive coordinators for 2022, according to league data. Overall, minority coaches now make up 39% of the total number of leagues, up from 35% in 2021. There is also a league record with 12 women in the coaching staff.

But Pettine remained concerned about the ability to identify and recruit candidates given the steady rise in salaries in college football. A coordinator or even a position coach may need to take a significant pay cut to join the NFL in an entry-level position, and historically, those coaches have been reluctant to do so, Pettine said. As a result, his program is mostly aimed at college coaches who are graduate assistants, research analysts, and work with quality control. More often than not, NFL teams promote their own coaches at the beginner level instead of seeking out a position coach or coordinator from college.

“It’s hard when you’re trying to pull someone into a job where they have not grown from within,” Pettine said. “This is going to take time. I might be sitting on a beach somewhere drinking a margarita, and am proud of the graduates from this class who are doing it and hopefully in future classes. I just think it’s something that is more of a grassroots thing. that will grow over time. “

In addition to Oberlin’s Smith, the coaches participating this week are: Imarjaye Albury (former Vikings assistant), Reggie Bain (Miami), Mark Cala (Arkansas), Cortez Carter (Florida State), Chili Davis (FAMU), Kenji Jackson ( Arkansas), Courtney Love (Kentucky), Jeremy Modkins (TCU), Jordan Reid (Wake Forest), Ahmad Smith (South Carolina), Earnest Thomas III (Tennessee).

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