Over the past two weeks, there has been plenty of off-the-field news regarding the coaching shuffle in the NFL (National Football League). The Washington Redskins finally let Jim Zorn go, after having him hanging on a thread all season long. At least to Zorn’s credit, he stayed on so that he can collect his severance. On Friday, a bombshell fell in Seattle, when the Seahawks, amid some internal wrangling, cut loose Jim Mora Jr. after one season.
The Redskins hired former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan and Seattle is expected to name USC coach Pete Carroll as early as Tuesday. It will mark Carroll’s return to the NFL after his tenure with the New York Jets and the New England Patriots.
These hires, however, is not without controversy and serious questions about how both teams went about to select their new coaches. It should have been simple for both Washington and Seattle. They knew who they wanted and considered no one else. But a rule that was put in place to force teams to open up the interview process has raised questions whether or not the rule is even worth enacting.
The Rooney Rule, named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, was crafted as a rule to “encourage” the teams in the NFL to interview minority (African-Americans) candidates for head coaching jobs. This was due to the slow progression of the league owners to hire minority head coaches to correspond with the makeup of the players in the NFL, in which the majority of the players are African-Americans.
The Rooney Rule punished it’s first and basically it’s only victim, the Detroit Lions, when they ran afowl of the rule, when they decided to “bypass” the interview process and asked former San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci to be their coach. The problem was that when the Lions attempted to interview several minority candidates, they turn down Detroit because they did not want to be part of a process where it would feel more like a “fake” interview, when the Lions already knew who they wanted.
“Window dressing”, a better term for it, means something done to make a better impression, and sometimes implies something dishonest or deceptive.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and Gregg Doyel of CBS Sportsline questioned and broke down how the Rooney Rule was being circumvented to the point of being a complete joke. Why would Redskins’ assistant Jerry Gray interview for the HC job, while Jim Zorn was still the head coach, and then the Redskins turned around and “interviewed” Gray again in order to comply with the rule? Gray, for all unintentional purposes, backstabbed his boss (Zorn) and became a token candidate at the same time. This will hurt Gray in the long-run.
In the case of Minnesota assistant Leslie Frazier, he didn’t want to interview for the Seattle job once it became public that Pete Carroll was going to be offered the position and would eventually accept it. But, he interviewed anyway, making himself a token interview for the Seahawks. Did the NFL and the Fritz Pollard Alliance “forced” Frazier to interview in order for Seattle to comply with the Rooney Rule?
It sure sounds like it to me. Frazier interviewing doesn’t make it a guarantee that he will garner more interviews down the road because of the notion of “in the spirit” of the rule. How many times must someone “get played” and not be seriously considered for a job?
Too many in the sports media will say that it was a raw deal for Frazier and Gray, but “at least they’re getting their names out there” to potential employers.
Is it worth “putting your name” out there, only to be used as a “prop” for a team or an organization, so that they can “comply” with a rule, when they already have decided who they wanted from the start?
The NFL thinks this is alright. No, it is not. They need to close the loophole that allow teams to go around the rule. Essentially, the rule has no “bite” to it. Never did when it was crafted, and it shows on how Seattle and Washington went about it.