Dan Rooney, the Pittsburgh Steelers chairman and former Ambassador to Ireland for President Barack Obama, said the "Rooney Rule," which is named after him, said NFL owners cannot be forced to hire minority candidates.
"You can't saddle these (coaches or owners) and say, 'You have to do this,'" Rooney said. "We want minorities to get the job, and we're willing to say that's our goal. But when it gets down to a team, you can't say to them, 'This is what you have to do.'"
He suggested that there just may not have been qualified minority coaching candidates this year that fit the type of head coach NFL owners were looking for.
In an interview with NFL.com, Rooney said the fact that no minorities were hired to be a head coach was "disappointing" but noted "every team followed procedures, interviewed minority candidates."
"At one time, two years ago, we don't need the Rooney Rule; everybody's hiring minorities coaches," Rooney said. "Well this year, you go back. That happens. You don't have the same situation this year."
Rooney said it is ultimately "up to the coach, the candidate, to show the owner that they're capable of doing the job. That's a big thing. Evidently, they weren't able to do that this year."
Under the Rooney Rule, NFL teams must interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a head coach.