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MINNEAPOLIS – Raiders owner Mark Davis desperately wanted Jon Gruden to be his next head coach and no one else. He probably would have retained Jack Del Rio without Gruden somewhat waiting in the wings.
Gruden was Davis’ clear choice after the coaching vacancy truly opened, eliminating the need to go through the song and dance of interviewing other candidates. They did, however, have to check a box.
The NFL’s Rooney Rule stipulates a team must interview at least one minority candidate for positions of power, particularly general manager and head coach.
The Raiders interviewed tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin for the gig after it was clear Gruden was the guy.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance – responsible for policing the Rooney Rule and the advancement of minority candidates -- didn’t like the way it was handled, and issued a statement saying they believe the Raiders violated the edict.
The NFL disagrees. Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the NFL conducted a thorough investigation into the Raiders’ hiring practices and found no wrongdoing.
“There was a full investigation by our staff, and we went into great detail,” Goodell said in a press conference. “We interviewed every one of the participants…and we decided they were in compliance with the Rooney Rule. Again, we spoke to every single won of the participants to make sure that was the case.”
The NFL has only fined one team for a Rooney Rule violation. Then commissioner Paul Tagliabue fined Detroit Lion general manager (and former Raider) Matt Millen $200,000 for hiring Steve Mariucci without properly vetting minority candidates.
The NFL deemed the Raiders, who have been pioneers when hiring minority candidates, did not violate that rule.
Here's the Fritz Pollard Alliance statement in its entirety:
"We strongly disagree with the NFL's conclusion that the Raiders did not violate the Rooney Rule. 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 Rooney Rule, in place since 2003, exists to ensure open selection processes that promote fair competition for everybody involved. It has made the NFL a torchbearer for equal opportunity in sports. Entering the 2017 season, half of the NFL's clubs were led by a minority head coach or general manager, and, impressively, ten Super Bowl teams over the last decade have had a minority head coach or general manager at the helm, proving that open competition produces the best results. That lesson has resounded well beyond the NFL. The federal government, Silicon Valley companies and small municipalities have all adopted forms of the Rooney Rule in recent years. So have entities overseas. Just last week, the Football Association in England -- soccer's oldest and most influential national governing body -- announced that it would implement the Rooney Rule when searching for head coaches for its national soccer teams at all age levels.
"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."