NFL still has work to do on minority hiring

HOUSTON -- As executive director of the NFL Coaches Association, Larry Kennan is heartened by the recent additions of two new minority head coaches, but acknowledged here this week that there is still much work to be done in broadening the process.

"It's a tremendous step and those who worked hard to improve consciousness of what we feel is a key issue should be congratulated," Kennan said. "But minority hiring practices, like some of the other important procedural issues during the firing and hiring cycle, still need to be addressed."

The hirings of Dennis Green by the Arizona Cardinals and Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears bring to five the number of minority head coaches now in the league, an all-time NFL high. But the league and the NFL Players Association as well have always talked about getting more candidates "into the pipeline" and, in that regard, Kennan allowed, more strides must be made.

There were, in fact, just seven minority candidates interviewed for the seven openings. Those seven men totaled 17 interviews, with Green (four), Smith (four) and Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel accounting for 13 of the interviews.

Four other candidates -- former Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, Buffalo defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, Seattle defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, and Dallas offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon -- received one interview each. Each of the seven teams that had openings interviewed at least two minority candidates.

In the weeks before the latest head coach cycle began, minority coaches were apprised by fax from the NFL's committee for workplace diversity to update their resumes and hone communication skills, because there would be more interviews this year. The fact that there was not a substantial number of minorities who participated in the process angered some assistants who felt they deserved to be interviewed for vacancies.

Some of the older minority assistants in the league, temporarily encouraged by what they now regard as empty rhetoric, insist the NFL is still doing business as usual.

"A lot of deserving men out there, well, their phones never even rang,' said former NFL player and longtime team front office administrator John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group which advocates more minority interviews. "On one hand, yes, the strides made this year were excellent. But when you've been waiting a long time just to get a foot in the door, and you see what happened the last month or so, you can't help but feel there is more that should be done."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.