The NFL just can’t seem to get it together this season.
From missteps with handling players who have allegedly committed domestic assault, to the lack of support for players who decided to kneel in protest, the NFL has now hired a questionable new coach. Jon Gruden is leaving the broadcasting booth to return to the locker room as the Oakland Raider’s new head coach. But the biggest problem with Gruden getting hired isn’t that he hasn’t been on the staff of an NFL team in 10 years or that his in-your-face style coaching is too old school–it’s that others might not have gotten a fair shake at the job.
The neglect is so apparent that the advocacy group, The Fritz Pollard Alliance is saying the Oakland Raiders violated the Rooney Rule with the new hire. The NFL’s Rooney Rule is similar to Equal Opportunity Employment in which it enforces that teams must interview People of Color for head coaching and senior football jobs. The rule was established back in 2002 when two Black head coaches were fired at the end of their respective seasons. One was Dennis Green of the Minnesota Vikings who led his team to the playoffs in eight of his 10 seasons as head coach. The first time he had a losing season, he was let go.
The other was Tony Dungy, who played safety before becoming head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts where he won a Super Bowl. Dungy’s presence is still felt in the league because he’s a commentator and his old staff, like Mike Tomlin and other Black Men, are still prospering in the league. But after a winning season with the Colts he was let go. After that, infamous lawyer Johnnie Cochran and labor law attorney Cyrus Mehri released a study that detailed a “dismal record of minority hiring.” According to ESPN, at that time 70% of the league’s players, 28 percent of the assistant coaches and six percent of the head coaches were Black. It was unfair and a new rule was implemented where people of color had to be considered for posts. Named after the former chairman of the league’s diversity committee and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney— the Rooney Rule was born.
When it comes to the Oakland Raiders’ current coaching choice, it was revealed that the team reached an agreement on Christmas Eve— a week before previous coach Jack Del Rio was fired. During the press conference to announce the new hiring, owner Mark Davis admitted that he’s been trying to get Gruden to be his coach since 2012 which raises suspicions that other people might not have been properly considered for the job.
During a press conference, GM Reggie McKenzie mentioned that he interviewed tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and Southern Cal offensive coordinator Tee Martin to comply with the Rooney Rule. Neither have the experience to run a team, and the interviews may have happened after the deal was struck with Gruden. And if Davis was so adamant about hiring Gruden, did those other two interviews even really matter?
The Fritz Pollard advocacy group, named after the league’s first black head coach in the 1920s, isn’t buying what the Raiders are selling.
“We are deeply concerned by reports that the Oakland Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, came to an agreement with Jon Gruden about him becoming the Raiders’ next head coach before interviewing any candidates of color,” Cyrus Mehri and N. Jeremi Duru, attorneys for the group, said in a statement.
There’s nothing wrong with a team having certain candidates as frontrunners, but outright hiring a coach without proper consideration of others is messed up.