Earlier this week, the Oakland Raiders organization officially named John Gruden its next head coach. The move was highly publicized not just because it was bringing Gruden out of the commentary booth for the first time in a decade but because the deal for the former Super Bowl champion was a whopping 10 year, $100 million contract. Now, the Fritz Pollard Alliance is asking the NFL to investigate the Raiders’ compliance with the Rooney Rule during their head coaching search, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.
For those that do not know, the Rooney Rule is named after former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, and has been implemented since 2003. It is a rule put in place to insure minority coaches are given a fair shake in the interview process for NFL coaching and general manager positions. When a team is hiring, they are required to interview at least one minority candidate to comply with the rule. The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes diversity in NFL coaching executive positions, is calling out the Raiders for violating the rule during during Gruden’s hiring process.
The Alliance is claiming that the organization came to terms with Gruden before even firing former coach Jack Del Rio, which would mean that no other interviews took place for the open head coaching gig. An official statement from the Fritz Pollard Alliance partially reads, “As soon as we learned of the reports, we formally requested that the NFL thoroughly investigate the matter to conclusively determine whether the Rooney Rule was violated — and if it was violated, to impose an appropriate punishment.”
Despite these claims, NFL insider Ian Rapoport claimed that the Raiders did, in fact, satisfy the Rooney Rule by interviewing Tight End coach Bobby Johnson and USC Offensive Coordinator Tee Martin.
The situation is definitely a little fishy, especially given the abrupt way that the team fired Del Rio in the locker room following the Raiders’ final game of the season. Even if the Raiders did comply to the Rooney Rule, it does show the rule is slightly flawed. While it is promoting the hiring of minorities, it still does not guarantee a team is not simply just interviewing a minority candidate to fulfill a quota with no real intention of hiring them. With the rule in place, there are currently only seven minority NFL head coaches. That’s less than a fourth of the league.
If the team does get penalized, they have their own owner Mark Davis to blame, who essentially admitted he had planned to hire Gruden weeks before even officially firing Del Rio.