NFL: Jim Harbaugh, The Rooney Rule and the Good Ole Boy Network

Dexter RogersCorrespondent IJanuary 6, 2011

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Stanford Cardinal is interviewed by ESPN's Michelle Tafoya after Stanford won 40-12 against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh has his pick of NFL and NCAA jobs.  In my opinion, Harbaugh has it going on because of his complexion, his days as a quarterback in the NFL and the good ole boys network. 

Yeah, I know.  Dexter is playing the race card again, right?

Not so. 

Just bear with me.

Harbaugh is a Michigan man.  He played quarterback there before embarking on his 15-year NFL career.  All he has to do is sneeze and he can have the job if he wants it. 

Harbaugh has amassed 58-27 overall record but he just a 29-21 record at Stanford.   He did most of his damage at San Diego where he was 29-6.

Why is everyone so enamored with Harbaugh? 

Rumor has it Harbaugh met with the San Francisco 49ers for five hours yesterday and he met with the Miami Dolphins today.  Last time I checked, the Dolphins still have a head coach.

Reports have consistently surfaced that Harbaugh is the hottest coach out there.  ESPN even suggested the Dolphins are prepared to make Harbaugh the highest paid coach in the NFL.

Based on what?

There is a rule in place called the Rooney Rule.  NFL franchises are mandated to interview at least one minority candidate for any head coaching or upper-management position. 

The NFL should actually change the name of the rule to the “Good Ole Boy Network Rule.”   It appears it is not about a coach’s ability to coach: It is their ability to establish connections because of their complexion.

African-Americans are not abundantly present in the pipeline for jobs nor do they have the intimate connections with ownership as whites do.

Teams like the Dolphins and 49ers have made their intentions clear they want Harbaugh.   What inclination does an African-American candidate have to interview with teams that have made it clear they are want someone else?

Leslie Frazier finally got a shot with the Minnesota Vikings when they removed the interim tag from his name.  Frazier finally got the opportunity to show what he could when the organization fired the embattled Brad Childress.

In my opinion, Frazier was used over the past seven years as the guy to fulfill the Rooney Rule requirement: He was interviewed by teams knowing they already had their guy in place. 

The preeminent example was last season.  The Seattle Seahawks knew they wanted Pete Carroll.  That is who they hired.   Frazier himself had this to say about the Seahawks and the interview process, "With those interviews that I was in back in January, I went into them with the best intentions, based on advice I got from key people, and just tried to approach it the right way.” 

Frazier continued, “Now, I can't answer for ownership, you know, what they were looking for and what they wanted out of the interviews. But I went into it believing each one would be a legitimate interview."

Frazier was asked specifically which team (the Seahawks) he felt wasn’t a legitimate interview and he issued the following: "I don't want to say which team, but one of them I was a little concerned about, and we went right down to the wire about whether I should even do the interview," he said. "On one of them, I left just wondering."

Let me be clear here.  Part of the reason Harbaugh is a hot commodity is because he is solid coach but he is not great.  The media is acting like he is the second coming of Vince Lombardi. 

If Harbaugh were African-American with the same credentials would the media be so excited?

Furthermore, what makes Harbaugh so attractive to teams is his complexion and his ability to establish the right connections.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is a Michigan man.  According to ESPN Ross has donated over $100 million to the University of Michigan.

Harbaugh played quarterback at Michigan and the Dolphins want him despite the fact they have a coach in place in Tony Sparano.  The Dolphins have disrespected Sparano and the Rooney Rule.

In case of the Rooney Rule, why have it in place when franchises don’t respect it?

The Dolphins can’t use Frazier for token interviews anymore.  I am quite sure teams will round up some potential African-American interview candidates and essentially waste their time. 

But perhaps the Dolphins will pull a Matt Millen and simply not comply with the rule and hire who they want.  In 2003, the Detroit Lions’ Millen was in charge of personnel decisions. 

One of those decisions was to hire a head coach.  Millen wanted Steve Mariucci so bad he did not interview any minority candidates. 

The NFL fined the Lions $200,000 and they got the coach they wanted.

With all of the vacancies rumored to be opening up not one legitimate African-American candidate is mentioned.  My guess once the dust settles few if any African-American coaches will get an opportunity to show what they can do.

I personally don’t think the Rooney Rule is working properly.  It is not creating a genuine pipeline for African-American coaches to get opportunities.

Despite the flaws one has to look at the success of African-American coaches have had at the highest level.  In the past five seasons Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin won Super Bowls as head coaches.  Lovie Smith guided the Chicago Bears to Super Bowl in 2006 where faced off against his friend and mentor Tony Dungy.

This season Raheem Morris led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 10-6 record with second year quarterback in Josh Freeman.

On the executive, the general manager of the New York Giants guided his team to a Super Bowl in 2007. 

When African-American head coaches and executives have received genuine opportunities far more times than not they have succeeded.

The Rooney Rule is supposed to lead to more opportunities for minorities: As it stands right now it is merely showing that the good ole boy network is still the rule that matters most.

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