By Steve Keating
MIAMI (Reuters) - The National Football League needs to do better when it comes to minority hiring, Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Wednesday in his Super Bowl state of the league address, but he stood by the league's efforts to improve player safety.
Despite the fact that 70% of NFL players are African American over the last three years, only two of 19 head coaching jobs have gone to black candidates.
During the most recent hiring cycle to fill five head coaching vacancies, only one went to a minority when Ron Rivera was hired by the Washington Redskins.
"Clearly we are not where we want to be on this level," conceded Goodell. "We need to change, do something different.
"There's no reason to expect we are going to have a different outcome next year without those kind of changes and we have already begun engaging in those changes. It is clear we are all committed to doing that and we have to make those changes."
Goodell, however, refused to concede any ground over criticism that the league is not doing enough to improve player safety, downplaying statistics that show concussions are up this past season.
The debate over player safety has increased with the NFL looking at the possibility of adding a 17th regular season game to the schedule, which would be included in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.
"Safety has been at the forefront and our number one priority of our players," said Goodell. "Over the last 10-to-15 years we have made over 50 rule changes to make our game safer.
"Concussions are up but they are up only slightly, statistically insignificant from a very low last year."
Goodell also confirmed that the NFL will return to Mexico for games in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Last November the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers played in Mexico City in front on 76,252 fans.
The commissioner also said the NFL would continue to play games in London, but said there was no timeline for a franchise there.
Goodell also said the league plans to honor 18-time NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant during Sunday's Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs as the sporting world mourns the death of Los Angeles Lakers star in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
(Editing by Dan Grebler)