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Tagliabue: Overtime change expected

SAN DIEGO, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Friday he thought the league's overtime system would be changed next season and he defended two NFL teams that had been criticized for their minority hiring practices.

Tagliabue appeared at his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference in the wake of more criticism from civil rights attorney Johnnie Cochran and other proponents of change regarding the league's hiring practices.

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Before the end of the regular season, there were only two black head coaches in the NFL -- Tony Dungy with the Indianapolis Colts and Herman Edwards with the New York Jets. There now are three with the recent hiring of Marvin Lewis by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens is the only black general manager in the NFL, although James Harris was hired as vice president of player personnel by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday.

Cochran, attorney Cyrus Mehri and former players Kellen Winslow and Warren Moon earlier this week sent a letter to Tagliabue in which they criticized the interview process followed by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver in hiring coaches.

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Jones never interviewed a minority coach in person before luring two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells out of retirement. Weaver hired Jack Del Rio, who had one year of experience as a defensive coordinator.

Tagliabue defended both franchise owners Friday.

"I don't understand what the criticism is over the hiring of Bill Parcells, who is a world-class coach, especially after Jerry Jones also spoke with Dennis Green by phone about the job," Tagliabue said.

Green was one of three black coaches in 2001. He resigned late in the season after nearly 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings.

"In addition to talking to Dennis Green, he (Jones) had no obligation to talk to other minority coaching candidates," Tagliabue said.

Del Rio got his first job after one year as defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. That is five years less than Lewis served as a coordinator before he was finally hired as a coach.

"(Players Association executive director) Gene Upshaw applauded the hirings of both Marvin Lewis and Jack Del Rio in the Players Association's news conference on Thursday and I essentially feel the same," Tagliabue said. "Wayne Weaver interviewed numerous candidates before he made his decision and we think his hiring of James Harris was a positive development."

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Last month, the league announced that teams would implement a comprehensive program to promote diversity in their coaching and front office ranks based upon recommendations of the NFL Committee on Workplace Diversity.

Appointed by Tagliabue on Oct. 31, the committee, headed by Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, made a series of recommendations. Owners agreed on the principle that any club seeking to hire a coach will interview one or more minority applicants for the position.

The one exception occurs when a club had made a prior contractual commitment to promote a member of its own staff and no additional interviewing takes place.

"We will rely on Dan Rooney to put concrete proposals in place," Tagliabue said. "But our league is more committed than ever to diversity. We are going to have color-blind hiring practices and make affirmative outreach efforts to both train and identify talent."

Tagliabue and Upshaw also appeared to be in agreement over a possible change in overtime rules.

Upshaw said Thursday he had forwarded a resolution to the league's competition committee, urging that both teams would be given a possession in overtime. Under the current rules, the first team that scores in overtime wins.

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"I suspect there will be a change in that area," Tagliabue said Friday. "I think the most important piece of information is the increasing number of times over the last two years that the team that won the coin flip won the game. Since we have moved the kickoff back to the 30, that gives an advantage to the team receiving first in overtime.

"Combine that with the strength of the offenses in the league this year and you have that imbalance."

Tagliabue also reiterated his hope to put an NFL team in Los Angeles over the next few years and said he would make it a "high priority" to bring a Super Bowl, perhaps in 2007, to Pasadena if the Rose Bowl is "significantly renovated."

The next three Super Bowls will be held in Houston, Jacksonville and Detroit.

"The competition is as fierce as it's ever been (for Super Bowls) with all the new stadiums," Tagliabue said.

In the October league meetings, presentations were made by cold-weather cities New York and Washington for the 2008 Super Bowl.

"There is a lot of interest in it, although if you look at the weather today in those places some will feel it is not a good idea," Tagliabue said. "The Jets are working for a new stadium with the Olympic Committee in New York and the Giants are working with New Jersey officials to seek improvements to Giants Stadium."

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