What is the point of having a rule to promote minority hiring if no one takes it seriously? The Seahawks are the latest team to flout the Rooney Rule, offering a half-hearted attempt to comply when it was all too clear they had already made up their mind about hiring Pete Carroll.
If I was Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, I would have said "Hell no" to Seattle’s attempt at tokenism and forced the Seahawks to pay the hefty fine they deserved to get. Of course, in reality, Frazier can’t do that if he ever wants to have a shot at an NFL gig, so he has to grit his teeth and play the game.
And thus, we have the crux of the issue. In theory, the Rooney Rule is a great idea—allowing deserving candidates to break through what was once the good ol’ boy network—that, for the most part, has failed.
Save for the hiring of Mike Tomlin (a Rooney Rule candidate that beat out the favored incumbents in Pittsburgh), the rule has done little more than give teams the outward appearance that they care about hiring minorities, especially in today’s coaching search, when targets are often identified months in advance.
The Seahawks aren’t the only team to blatantly skirt the rule. Everyone in Washington knew the Redskins were going to do everything in their power to hire Mike Shanahan, yet they had to give a half-assed interview to Jerry Gray in order to make things right with the league. Even Gray knew he wasn’t going to get the job, but again, what can you do?
It certainly cheapens the honor of being considered for a head coaching position when these hard working men are simply used as pawns in order to move the hiring process along. Given his track record, it certainly seems like Frazier deserves better than being a quota-filler, but so were a lot of other guys who never made it past the interview process.
If Seattle had approached its search for a new coach by the book—hiring a GM first and then identifying all qualified candidates and then still landed on Carroll, then good for them. There’s no issue in wanting Carroll—it’s a controversial move that has given the Seahawks more publicity than they’ve had since the Super Bowl season.
The issue is that by the time the 'Hawks fired Mora, the wheels were already in place to bring Carroll on board, rendering any other overtures moot and showcasing the deficiencies in the Rooney Rule.
What can the NFL do to rectify the situation? I’m not sure. When there’s a "normal" coaching search, the rule seems to provide some positive benefit, but when big names are available and teams want to strike while the iron is hot, you can throw all rules out the window.
It looks like the Seahawks are going to get their guy, but in doing so, they’ve shined a harsh light on the fact that the NFL’s efforts to increase diversity in the coaching ranks may just be a bunch of hot air.
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