Can The Rooney Rule Be Trusted?

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.

My suggestions:

  • 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.

27 Responses to “Can The Rooney Rule Be Trusted?”

  1. HarveyDent says:

    Substantive article and some good suggestions, Miz. When I listened to sports talk heavily when I lived in ATL it used to always burn me up this time of year when Chris Dimino would equate the Rooney Rule with tokenism and say that owners should be able to hire who they want to lead their teams. At base I have no problem with that but with over twenty years of work experience I know people in position to make those decisions hire who they’re comfortable with and if they can do without the weeding our process they would do so. That’s the NFL before the Rooney Rule because you can convince that the moon is made out of angel food cake easier than you can prove to me that the ol’ boy network is dead when it comes to minority hires.

    Al Davis for all the praise he got for naming Art Shell as the first modern black head coach in the NFL of the Raiders back in the late 80’s only did so after he went out of the Raider family and hired Mike Shanahan. It’s telling that Maverick Al only trusted a lifelong Raider with the keys to the kingdom only after he gave them to a stranger to the culture first. That’s why I say the Rooney Rule is still needed because trusting the goodness of the owners’ hearts is as much a fallacy as believing Bush and Cheney wouldn’t abuse the expanded police powers of the Patriot Act because they were “good” Christians.

  2. HarveyDent says:

    Also, isn’t it funny how guys like Grimm, Harbaugh, and Schottenheimer who’ve never been head coaches in the NFL think it’s beneath them to interview for some jobs like the Bills? Imagine if Frazier or Gray or Rivera did that because they thought a better situation was coming along. They would be raked over the coals just like the first three should be. I have more respect for a guy who goes into a difficult situation and makes it work than someone who wants a glamour position.

  3. HD – When I was wrapping this piece what you quoted in your last post.

    Remember how Jason Garrett shot down a couple of coaching jobs to stay in Dallas and that’s when they struggled and his star power fizzled.

    The Rooney Rule is still needed it just needs to be monitored by individuals that want to see this thing move forward.

  4. HD – I’m looking into some ways to fix our Birds for next season, gimme a few days for this.

  5. sankofa says:

    Your suggestions seem sound in the real world, but lest we forget, T\Roger the doger is an employee of the shield…despite all his tuff talk, whic is only for the knee-grows!

    Good post!

  6. Thanks Sankofa, haven’t heard from you in awhile.

  7. HarveyDent says:

    Sorry I didn’t give you due recognition for this one, TBR. Good work and I’ll be waiting for your State of the Eagles address soon.

  8. Temple3 says:

    A quick one:

    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)

    Jim Caldwell, HC of the Colts improved the Colts record from 12-4 to 14-2.

    If the Colts win the Super Bowl, it will mean that 3 of the last 4 Super Bowl winning coaches are Black. It may also mean, when viewed alongside the NFL players survey of coaches they most want to play for, that teams will ignore the Rooney Rule at their own peril.

    You may or may not know that the Seattle Seahawks reportedly offered the President position to Tony Dungy. Dungy stated that if he took the job, he would have hired Leslie Frazier as head coach.

    The pool of candidates is going to increase as more and more guys BELIEVE they can get jobs. I think a number of viable coaching candidates sought jobs in the broadcast booth or have pursued other lines of work. I also suspect that Dungy’s presence outside of an official position is helpful in keeping doors open.

  9. I was aware of the Dungy situation, I didn’t mention it (maybe I should have) since Dungy reportedly withdrew his name from consideration.

  10. Temple3 says:

    I think it is important that he was offered the position. That was the basis for Frazier’s interview. If Dungy takes the job, Carroll is not the coach in Seattle.

    Franchises who need to consider coaching changes (that haven’t just made them) include Philadelphia, Carolina, Tennessee, Houston, Jacksonville, and San Diego.

    The truly abysmal teams around the league have made coaching changes. This list includes a number of perennial favorites — and quite a few with solid quarterbacks. What each team has in common is an inability to get over the top. Most of these jobs are attractive, but its like you said — the pool of candidates have to be larger than Leslie Frazier.

    What do you think about the state of Black general managers in the league? Do you see any signs of that changing?

  11. Mizzo says:

    Dungy will be the man to break the GM mode ultimately…hopefully.

  12. Mizzo says:

    Jerold and I were just discussing this. I feel Dungy is taking a break so his family gets over the shock of his son’s unfortunate passing.

    He can have any job he wants when it opens up because he’s trusted. He’s also invaluable to our legacy because he is so underrated on and off the field. He’s the icon we need to create a steady flow of soul models.

    I wrote a piece called Driving While Black my first year in the game focused on opportunity. I wanted Dungy to continue coaching and that was selfish, but now I understand his worth off the field.

  13. Temple3 says:

    The other side to the coin is that the Black GMs in New York (Giants) and Arizona have had a great deal of success. One Super Bowl win and two appearances in the last two seasons is hard to beat.

    Martin Mayhew, the former Washington Redskin DB, is the GM in Detroit. He hired a defensive coach, and they have some pieces on offense, but the team needs to be rebuilt in the trenches. When the Lions have elite offensive/defensive lineman (NEVER!!!!), they’ll be a force in the league.

    Every team left has one or two or three Pro Bowl caliber linemen on both sides of the ball.

  14. Zuri says:

    To answer the question in the headline, no. This rule cannot be trusted. The structure in place to enforce the rule is a farce and the people propping it up have no integrity.

    With that said, I really wish a guy like Frazier just declines interviewing in some of these places. I’m not saying turn down an interview with the Bills (which he was legitimately in contention for), but turn down interviews with the Seahawks and every other franchise that publicly has eyes on another candidate. Force them to deal with the repercussions of being so narrow-sighted.

    I like your other point, about making all coaches unavailable for interviews until after the season. That kind of regulation would put people on an equal playing field and avoid the awkwardness of interviewing for a new job during a Super Bowl run.

  15. HarveyDent says:

    Can the Rooney Rule be trusted?

    As proof that it cannot I present Brutha’s Exhibit A: Chan Gailey, newly minted coach of the Buffalo Bills.

    WTF was this happy horsecrap? Leslie Frazier, Perry Fewell, Ron Rivera, et al got passed over for a guy who has been the middle of the road head coach everywhere he’s been from Troy State to Dallas to GA Tech? ”

    Yeah, the Rooney Rule isn’t needed at all,” he typed cynically.

  16. From what I’ve read it looks like everyone interviewed turned down the job including Rivera, Fewell and Frazier. And that the Bills wanted an offensive-minded coach with prior head coaching experience.

    Frazier may land the job in Oakland if the other shoe drops on Tom Cable. Al Davis wants someone who can develop Jamarcus Russell. If Frazier can snatch someone up that may be all he needs.

  17. Temple3 says:


    Quick question…What would have been the point in Frazier turning down an interview in Seattle? If Dungy accepted the job as team president, he was going to pick Frazier as head coach. Frazier needed to meet with the owners at some point. Dungy declined the position and Seattle chose to go in another direction.

    If he was a serious candidate in Buffalo and in Seattle, I’m not sure I see a problem with respect to Frazier.

    With respect to the Redskins and several other franchises, there are clear problems and cause for concern — but that label cannot be affixed everywhere. Teams are circumventing the spirit of the rule. That’s natural. It’s time for the rule-makers to tweak so that enforcement of the rule is upheld. After all, the saying is, “Rules were made to be …” 🙂


    I’d hate to see Frazier in Oakland. The Raiders problem is on the offensive side of the ball. The defense is solid and fueled wins over Denver, Philadelphia and others. The Raiders have a QB that appears ill-prepared for games, a lumbering offensive line, three injury prone running backs and several inexperienced wide receivers. That is a recipe for disaster.

    He may very well get the job, but I don’t think it will make him a more attractive candidate for hire when his time in Oakland is done.

  18. Zuri says:


    I guess my point depends on the timeline. How long did Frazier have before he knew that Dungy wasn’t getting the job, and therefore he didn’t have a chance? It seemed pretty blatent to me that Dungy was already out of the running when Frazier was interviewing and that Pete Carroll was already being targeted. My question for Frazier is simple: Why would you put yourself through that?

  19. Mizzo says:

    Not to thread jack, but check this bullshit out.

  20. Temple3 says:


    I suspect that since Dungy wanted Frazier, the interview was conducted before he declined the position. Otherwise, it doesn’t make much sense. Frazier and Dungy would be of the same mind set in terms of player selection, drafting, free agency, schemes, etc.

    Pete Carroll is likely to go in a different direction.


    I got nothing on that. If anyone want to see a bunch of neanderthals in empty arenas do the equivalent of a circle jerk, have at it.

  21. Mizzo says:

    I’d suspect if the flood gates opened in regard to NFL Black head coaches, then there would be an influx of trued extensions on the field. Job security is at stake.

  22. Temple3 says:


    an influx of trued extensions on the field


  23. Mizzo says:

    Sorry was on the phone that should read true.

  24. Matthew Fudge says:

    Heard that black football coaches should boycott, which wouldn’t work. That’ll just give teams an excuse not to hire black coaches.

  25. Temple3 says:

    Just heard that Vince Young was named to the Pro Bowl to replace Philip Rivers.

    If VY can make the Pro Bowl after playing half a season, what does that say about the quality of quarterback play in the AFC, and about the depth of the miscalculation in Tenn. this season?