NFL teams can now interview head coaching candidates during last two weeks of season

The NFL's Fall League Meeting has produced a handful of changes to the Rooney Rule.

A memo sent by the NFL to all 32 clubs and obtained by NFL Network's Tom Pelissero detailed policy changes enacted during Tuesday's session that were initially reported on Monday. Among those changes were an increase in the amount of external minority candidates required to be interviewed during a hiring process to fill vacancies at the executive level, as well as coordinator positions.

Another notable change revealed in Tuesday's memo is that, beginning in the upcoming hiring cycle, teams are allowed to interview a candidate for a head coach position during the final two weeks of the regular season with the consent of the employer club. The interview can be virtual, and once the employing team gives consent, the candidate will be able to interview for any open head coach role.

A position is considered "open" if the head coach that started the season is no longer employed by the club, or has received notice he will no longer be with the club in the following season. As it was prior to these changes, candidates not currently employed by a team are free to interview as they please.

Last year, the NFL opened up the interview window early on Dec. 23, but the change to practice was not announced until Dec. 22. With roughly two months' notice this year, it's a possibility more teams will take advantage this time around.

The earlier window for interviews could prove to be a significant change, but it's one of multiple tweaks to the Rooney Rule, with the major adjustment being the new requirement on interviewing a minimum of two minority candidates for executive and coordinator spots.

The league will require clubs to interview at least two external minority candidates for general manager/EVP of football operations, and for all open coordinator roles (offense, defense and special teams). The NFL is also requiring franchises to conduct an in-person interview for at least one external minority candidate for any head coach or general manager opening, while all coordinator interviews can take place virtually, though it is strongly encouraged to conduct these interviews in person.

The league office will track whether interviews for these open positions are conducted virtually or in person, and will ask all teams to provide this information within three days of the interview.

The NFL is focusing on helping its available coaches and executives improve by strongly encouraging all teams to provide prompt feedback to candidates following their interviews. The league will also have additional education and training on sexual harassment, discrimination and diversity, equity and inclusion "to ensure we have a safe and welcoming environment for all employees," per the memo.

The changes reflect the impact of a growing call for increased diversity in the league's ranks.

These adjustments to the Rooney Rule answer the request for a greater emphasis on expanding the hiring pool. It could see its first test in the final two weeks of the season if a team fires its existing coach before then. If not, teams looking for coaches, general managers and/or coordinators will operate under these guidelines in early 2022.

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