I have never felt a vibe like this before


Together with the NFL's coach and general manager hiring cycle today in full swing, there's a sense of optimism in those early stages of the process about the searches becoming more varied and inclusive than anything we have seen in recent decades. It is much too preliminary to make any proclamations, however through the first interviews for applicants not currently under NFL contracts, owners appear to be doing a more-than-cursory job of meeting varied candidates, and there is an increasing sense among current and former NFL executives, coaching representatives, and one of the candidates of color themselves who 2021 can in fact be more reflective of the composition of the NFL's locker rooms.

I would call it cautious optimism, as NFL teams begin to submit formal request slips to interview coach and GM candidates. Along with Rod Graves, head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which works together with all the NFL in the pursuit of greater diversity in the coaching and management ranks.

"I think'cautious optimism' is the right way to frame it," Graves told me Sunday afternoon. "A great deal of credit goes to (Commissioner) Roger Goodell and (VP of football operations) Troy Vincent for its sense of urgency which has developed relating to this problem over the previous 8-to-12 months"

There is not anything to champion until we see the final results of those searches, but it seems more than lip service is being paid into The Rooney Rule, and there's a sense within the classes doing the hiring which time for words is over -- that this league must be equitable in who gets to sit in places of power inside the game, and, ultimately, only the owners themselves may alter this.

Knowledgeable coaches like Marvin Lewis and executives like Rick Smith seem very poised at this stage to have a legitimate chance with numerous teams. There's hope that 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy will have better luck this time around.

The team has become more competitive, proactive and consistent with its messaging to teams about the need to change the way they have been doing business, and I have heard repeatedly from people doing the hiring, and those who represent lots of the top candidates, the character of this cycle will in reality be different.

"I have never felt a vibe like this before," said one prominent agent. "I believe Goodell has put down the hammer and these teams are getting the message."

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