ALAMEDA — The NFL said Friday that the Oakland Raiders complied with the "Rooney Rule" when they hired Jon Gruden as head coach.
The league said a review found the Raiders conducted "bona fide" interviews with minority candidates during their search for a replacement for the fired Jack Del Rio. The "Rooney Rule" requires NFL teams to consider at least one minority candidate before making an offer to a head coaching candidate. The team officially hired Gruden on Jan. 6.
General manager Reggie McKenzie said last week that he fulfilled the Rooney Rule by interviewing two minority candidates. He interviewed former Raiders tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin for the position.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance called for an investigation last week out of concern that Raiders owner Mark Davis came to an agreement with Gruden before the team interviewed any minority candidates. Raiders owner Mark Davis said during Gruden's introductory press conference that he was leaning towards Gruden after a Christmas meeting in Philadelphia. That timeline suggests Davis made up his mind to hire Gruden well before interviewing Johnson or Martin.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization dedicated to promoting diversity and equality of job opportunity on the coaching, front office and scouting staffs of NFL teams, believes the Raiders violated the Rooney Rule.
“We strongly disagree with the NFL’s conclusion that the Raiders did not violate the Rooney Rule,” the Fritz Pollard Alliance said in a statement. “We believe the facts overwhelmingly point in the other direction. In his enthusiasm to hire Jon Gruden, Raiders’ owner Mark Davis failed to fulfill his obligation under the Rule and should step forward and acknowledge he violated the Rule.”
“...The NFL broke ground when it created the Rooney Rule, but it made the wrong call in refusing to penalize Mark Davis in this instance. Davis crossed the line, and we are disappointed in the League’s decision. The Rooney Rule and all of the League’s equal opportunity efforts need to be strengthened. We have called for meetings with the League to ensure that a process like this never happens again.”
NBC Sports Bay Area reporter Scott Bair contributed to this report.
If you want to be correct about it, the Oakland Raiders have been preparing for the day they could violate the Rooney Rule since the moment Mark Davis replaced his father as the team’s managing general partner.
That’s how long Davis has wanted Jon Gruden, and his hyperactive haste and generosity is a tribute to his persistence as much as it is his inability to create adequate subterfuge. His giddy admission that he jumped on Gruden on Christmas Eve, other than reminding folks of the 21st anniversary of the day his dad whacked Mike White in 1996, told us he had picked Gruden not only before interviewing any minority candidates but before firing Jack Del Rio as well.
Now that impulse buying – or at least it would be if it was six years’ worth of impulses coming to a head.
So yes, Mark Davis violated the Rooney Rule, and if that offends Raider observers who actually wonder if the rule should actually named the Al Davis Rule because of his groundbreaking record with minority hires, so be it. They did it, and they are right to be called on it by the Fritz Pollard Alliance.
And if you think getting the guy you have craved for more than half a decade isn’t actually wrong, so be that, too. The Raiders will make that argument if pressed, and will use the father’s record as well as Mark’s decision to hire Reggie McKenzie as his general manager, to buttress their claim.
And if that doesn’t work, they will give up $200,000 and move on without a moment’s concern with Gruden as their head coach. They’ll write it off as the owner forgetting to cover his tracks, and so be that as well.
That’s the point. Whether found guilty or not, the Raiders will get the $200 large out of petty cash. The fine is a grossly insignificant deterrent to a billionaire getting what he wants, and it doesn’t come with any kind of shaming mechanism. I mean, it’s been invoked once in the rule’s history, and that was 15 years ago.
There were seven black coaches before the Rooney Rule was enacted (including Fritz Pollard) and eight since, if you eliminate interim coaches who were promoted to fulltime and therefore didn’t have to be included in Rooney Rule provisions. If you include them, the total is 13. You may decide for yourselves what level of progress in opening the process those figures represent.
But it seems clear that Mark Davis never gave the Rooney Rule a thought, and/or nobody told him he had to do so. For that error in procedure, he will happily write a six figure check after pledging himself to a nine-figure check to get the guy he wanted. And, whether this is good or not, he will sleep the sleep of the satisfied. It’s that feeling the Rooney Rule was meant to disturb, and that has clearly been breached by his own giddy admission.