Fritz Pollard Alliance proposes changes, including adding entry-level positions for minority coaches

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Fritz Pollard Alliance, the diversity group responsible for implementation of the NFL's Rooney Rule, is proposing even more changes for 2019 that will create additional opportunities for minorities in both coaching and scouting.

Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten, a former player and front-office executive, told ESPN his group is proposing that the league not only create two entry-level positions for minorities on each coaching staff -- offense and defense -- as part of the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship, but to expand the fellowship to a full year.

Under current structure of the fellowship, which originally was established in 1987, fellows participate in offseason workout programs, minicamps and training camps. This new structure would expand that time frame to the regular season, the postseason and the NFL draft.

Wooten's group also is proposing expanding the structure for the Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship -- which was named in his honor and that of longtime Pittsburgh Steelers personnel director Bill Nunn -- to a full year and expanding applications to racial minorities and women.

"This is how you build," Wooten said. "If you want to build the programs that keep making the league better, have better coaches, have better scouts as it relates to minorities, you've gotta put them in [all] the situations," Wooten said.

The current Nunn-Wooten program, created in 2015, is only for former NFL players. But Wooten believes others can excel too, pointing to the late Linda Bogdan -- daughter of late Buffalo Bills founder and owner Ralph Wilson -- who spent 23 years working as a scout and in the front office for the Bills. Wooten got to know Bogdan when he worked as a scout with the Dallas Cowboys targeting the East Coast.

"[She was] one of the best scouts I've ever known in my years of scouting," Wooten said. "I got to know her. I didn't know she was Ralph Wilson's daughter. ... She was outstanding. Look what you got out of there -- Bruce Smith, Andre Reed -- all those guys came out of her area. Women can scout if given the opportunity."

Wooten said these changes are not in response to the lack of minority head-coaching hires but added that it's a "must do if the NFL is going to attain its goal of diversity and inclusion moving forward."

As for why Wooten believes the programs need to be expanded to a full year, he relayed a conversation he had with Walsh when the minority fellowship was created.

Walsh told Wooten: "Here's what we're gonna do: We're gonna take a couple of guys and we're gonna take them for the whole year. And I guarantee you, if we have an opening, we'll keep him; but he will be ready to coach anywhere in this league."

"And that's what we're saying to the league today," Wooten said. "Let's take each team and have a minority come on as offense and defense, as coaches' assistants, quality control, so they can start to learn the system and be able to move up as they go," Wooten said, citing the Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions as teams that have adopted the extended program.

"If you're gonna be a top scout or a coach, you've gotta be there through training camp, preseason, regular season, you've gotta be able to work over here, work over there. [Former Baltimore Ravens general manager] Ozzie Newsome probably does it better than anybody as it relates to scouts. His scouts all know his philosophy, right? They know what they're looking at and what they're looking for when they go out because they've been trained by Ozzie."

Wooten and his group will formally propose these changes to the NFL at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in February.

"I think they will [adopt those changes]," Wooten said. "When they come together, I think they will."

The NFL has been receptive to the group's proposals.

Last season, the league adopted changes to the Rooney Rule, which not only required NFL teams to interview at least one minority for head-coaching and general manager positions, but that owners or the key decision-maker of an organization must be present for the interview -- and that candidates must be part of a list supplied by the Fritz Pollard Alliance or by the NFL in order to satisfy the requirement.