Monday, January 11, 2010

What Rooney Rule?

Which flaunting of the Rooney Rule is more egregious: the Redskins with Shanahan's hiring, or the Seahawks with Carroll's hiring?

Danny was more creative with Shanahan. He got his secondary coach Jerry Gray to tell the Fritz Pollard Alliance that he had interviewed for the job.

It's unclear whether Gray actually did interview. He denied to friends & colleagues that he interviewed; but he convinced the Alliance that he had. Why would he tell friends & colleagues that he hadn't interviewed, if he had? Well, if he interviewed, he interviewed at a time when his boss, head coach Jim Zorn, still was coaching the team and they still had games remaining on their schedule. That is, to put it mildly, bad form. Why would he tell the Alliance he had interviewed, if he hadn't? Well, the Fritz Pollard Alliance does not butter his bread. Dan Snyder does. This showcases Danny's magical ability to put people in really crappy positions. When Danny approached Gray and asked him either to interview, or pretend to interview, what was Gray supposed to do? Is Gray's loyalty to the head coach or to the logo, which is vested in the owner? In reality there should be no conflict between those two, but not in Danny World.

Why does this matter? Well, because Shanahan was always going to be Danny's hire. It's been Shanahan since mid-season; it was almost Shanahan last season. Shanahan was chosen; Danny only needed Gray to put a Rooney Rule gloss on the hiring. There was no chance Gray was ever going to get the job.

Supporting the notion that Gray took a bullet for Snyder, it looks like Gray is being rewarded. Shanahan seems to be retaining him. It's all very back room, which is just the way Danny likes it. Ick.

Danny showed tactical ingenuity, getting an asst coach to crony up for an interview: but the Seahawks were more adacious. They basically choose Pete Carroll, came to an agreement with him, and then asked Leslie Frazier to interview over the weekend so they could fulfill their Rooney Rule responsibilities. Breathtaking.

Frazier initially refused to interview, and power to him. But he evidently received some assurances from Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke, that the role Carroll was being considered for was just a coaching role, did not involve "full control", and proceeded to do the interview. It's fairly Byzantine - some details here:

These manipulations of the Rooney Rule are offensive, disgusting, possibly racist, and extremely discreditable to the organizations involved. Discreditable to the league as a whole too. Roger Goodell has come done on the wrong side of this, which is a problem. Tagliabue first gave the Rule some teeth by fining Matt Miller 200 grand over the Mariucci hiring. If Goodell is going to sit idly while teams run roughshod over it, then we could see some backsliding in this area. CBS Sports columnist Gregg Doyel legitimately asks, "Why bother with the Rooney Rule if this is how it works?"

However, after 9 years of the Rooney Rule we may have finally gotten to the point where these things might be self-correcting. It's similar to when sports leagues started admitting black players: the teams that were slow to use black players put themselves at a terrible competitive disadvantage. They were failing to avail themselves of a large pool of talent, that their opponents were using. Likewise, teams that pass over Leslie Frazier (John Harbaugh endorses Frazier) to hire Pete Carroll will eventually find themselves at a competitive disadvantage against teams that hire Frazier. (Buffalo seems about to hire him.)

  • Indianapolis hired Dungy, and got 5 division titles and a Super Bowl win out of it.
  • Pittsburgh hired Shaft, and have got two division titles and a Super Bowl win out of it so far.
  • Da Bears hired Lovie Smith, and got 2 division titles and a conference championship out of it.
  • Indy promoted Jim Caldwell, and already have a division title and #1 playoff seed to show for it.
  • The Bengals hired Coach Marvin, and got 2 division titles and an over .500 record out of it. The Bengals!
  • The 49ers hired Singletary and are over .500 with him as coach (barely, at 13-12).
Tampa's Raheem Morris will demonstrate over the next couple seasons that the under-prepared over-promoted black coach will not ultimately do much better than the under-prepared over-promoted white coach, aka "Jim Zorn". But that won't diminish the fact that black coaches have been pretty damn good.

The other factor is that we now have black general managers in the league. The bosses of head coaches. That wasn't true 10+ years ago. Ozzie Newsome, Jerry Reese, and Martin Mayhew are well regarded. Two of those guys have won Super Bowls for their team; the third will get a ticker tape parade if he can produce a winning record in the next 3-4 years. As it happens, all three of their teams have white head coaches, but that seems to be because he was the best guy available at the time (Reese inherited Coughlin), not due to any unconscious bias or lack of awareness of qualified black head coaching candidates. Can a black GM even have an unconscious bias or lack of awareness of qualified black head coaching candidates?

The pool of white coaches has been thoroughly picked over by teams over the decades. (Sort of like the Patriots staff & front office.) Those organizations that are smart enough to see the value of a Mike Tomlin or a Leslie Frazier, and snap him up, are going to do pretty well for themselves. Those that aren't will continue to ride the treadmill of recycled hacks and sub-.500 seasons.


Related reading:

Tackling Unconscious Bias In Hiring Practices: The Plight Of The Rooney Rule (PDF) by Brian W. Collins, NYU School of Law.


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