In 2003, the Rooney Rule was adopted to ensure minorities an equal opportunity at head coaching and front office jobs in the NFL. Since the rule was put in place Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin have won Super Bowl titles in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh respectively. And while these are historical accomplishments, the promotion of successful Black and Latino assistants to the head coaching ranks in comparison to their White counterparts can be described as questionable at best.
The Frazier Factor
For three seasons, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has been one of the NFL’s most interviewed candidates for a head coaching job. The term “desirable candidate” should apply here, but if that was the case, he would be employed by now.
Frazier began his career as the defensive backs coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999, during his four years in Philly, the Eagles were able to field one of the NFL’s best young secondaries. From there Frazier would move onto Cincinnati where the Bengals saw drastic improvements in turnovers, interceptions and yards allowed. In 2005, Frazier joined Tony Dungy’s staff in Indianapolis. The Colts pass defense jumped from 15th the previous season to 2nd. The Colts would go on to win the Super Bowl over his former team the Chicago Bears.
For the past three seasons Frazier has been at the helm of one of the more dominant defensive units in the NFL. Upon his arrival in 2007 the Vikings finished 20th in total defense. For the past two seasons, they have finished 6th in total defense and no less than 2nd against the run the past three seasons.
I don’t know what’s more disheartening; the fact that an institution like the NFL has to force its owners to interview minorities or that upon further review still cannot find a candidate of Frazier’s caliber worthy of an opportunity.
Of the coaches hired in 2009 five were first-time head coaches, of those five only two improved on the previous seasons record (Todd Haley – Chiefs, Jim Schwartz – Lions) and those with previous experience actually did worse than the previous season (Jim Mora – Seahawks, Eric Mangini – Browns)
Suspect In Seattle
Last Friday, rumors circulated that then-USC coach Pete Carroll was being courted by the Seattle Seahawks to replace the fired Jim Mora as head coach. Reportedly, a deal was on the table Saturday for Carroll, the day after Frazier declined to meet with the Seahawks. Frazier agreed to only interview with Seattle if the position held the same responsibilities Carroll was under consideration for.
John Wooten, President of the Fritz Pollard Alliance (the group that monitors team’s compliance with the Rooney Rule) gave Seahawks management his blessing in the hiring of Carroll upon hearing that contact had been made with Carroll but no contract had been offered.
It’s obvious that a contractual deal was worked out with Carroll before Mora was let go -bringing in Frazier was just a move to “comply” with the rule. And since the Pollard Alliance has no wielding power, qualified men like Frazier are viewed as no more than pawns going through the motions in the interview process.
Frazier has since interviewed for the Buffalo Bills opening. But there may be a situation brewing in Minnesota that could effect Frazier directly.
It’s well known that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre and head coach Brad Childress do not see eye to eye, the damage this has done in the locker room will not be assessed until the playoffs have ended.
Is it possible that if the Vikings fall short of the Super Bowl Childress may be out and the team could go in another direction with Frazier? Three former Viking assistants have gone on to win Super Bowls (Brian Billick, Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin). If things don’t work out with Childress, Frazier will not be allowed to get away.
Buffalo Bills: The Girl No One Wants to Dance With
When the Buffalo Bills fired head coach Dick Jauron after week 10, one name came to mind; Bill Cowher. The former Steelers coach remains in limbo, despite hearing everything from Cowher assembling a staff to waiting for openings in Carolina and Tampa Bay to occur (Neither will happen this season). Former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick’s name has surfaced, although he states that he has had no contact with the Bills. In this span of a few days the Bills have interviewed interim coach Perry Fewell and Leslie Frazier. New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Shottenheimer declined to interview as well as Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and Arizona Cardinals offensive line coach Russ Grimm.
In an interesting twist, San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera turned down an interview with the Bills in fear of jeopardizing his close friend Leslie Frazier’s chances of landing the job.
Shady Dealings in D.C.
I guess Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was trying to get his compliance with the Rooney Rule out of the way when he interviewed defensive backs coach Jerry Gray in late December. It’s no secret that the ‘Skins are a divided franchise but to interview a member of the coaching staff while the season is still in session is the ultimate disrespect to a head coach. If Gray was going to take over in December an interview wasn’t needed, but he would still need to be interview under the Rule once the season ended. This all points to Snyder trying to get the early jump on Mike Shanahan. No one seemed more baffled then Gray who said in one statement that he did not interview for the job, but John Wooten confirmed an interview with Gray, who went into detail about the Redskins’ interview process, the questions presented to him and the like. In a final show of inconsistency Gray has urged reporters to go directly to the source because he “Did not want to throw the Redskins under the bus.” Gray has since accepted the same position with Pete Carroll’s staff in Seattle.
Not to be forgotten in this is Snyder’s motive for this veiled “interview” that could’ve cost a man his coaching career.
A Challenge to Goodell.
Obviously, owners have studied the Rooney Rule and found loopholes that work to their advantage. Although the decision to hire ultimately lies with them, there seems to be a reluctance to adhere to the rule when names like Shanahan, Cowher and John Fox (next season) are floating around. What if these men weren’t available, would the Lane Kiffins and Nick Sabans of the world be wooed back in, thus reinforcing the ‘Ole Boy Network?
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell needs to select a committee of former NFL players that are willing to work close to the situation and see that the rules are followed to the letter.
No potential coach can be contacted until after the Super Bowl. All games will be out of the way, this gives coaches on playoff teams equal time to prepare.
Each team must submit their potential interviews to the new governing body which must be in compliance with the Rooney Rule.
No team can deny their minority coach an interview regardless of position and contract status.
For all of the emphasis Roger Goodell has put on enforcing codes of conduct and substance abuse, his efforts to address concern for the preservation of this sport by enforcing equal opportunity and growth is in question.