Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys Prove the Rooney Rule Wrong

Michael PerchickCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19:  Interim head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys during a game against the Washington Redskins at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Rooney Rule was created in 2003 to require NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching and senior football operations positions.  On its surface, it seems harmless.  It is promoting minorities for opportunities that they had previously been passed over for.

But eight years later, has the rule gone too far?

I bring this up because of the coaching situations going on in Minnesota and Dallas. Both teams fired their coaches midseason.  Both teams fell wildly short of expectations this season.  Both teams promoted assistants from within (Jason Garrett for Dallas, Leslie Frazier for Minnesota), to lead the team for the remainder of the season under the "interim" tag.

Both coaches are respected coordinators in the league, and both lead their teams to some form of success in their brief tenure as coach.  Both deserve to be head coaches for their current teams based off their performance.  

Yet as of today, only Frazier holds that right.  Because he's black.  And Garrett is not.

I'm not saying Leslie Frazier got the job because he's black—he got the job because he's a very well-respected and well-liked defensive coordinator.  He got the job because the Vikings still have one of the top defenses, despite their lowly record.  But the Vikings did not have to interview anybody else for the head coaching position because Frazier is a minority.

On the other hand, since Garrett is not a minority, he cannot be given the position. Despite the fact that Garrett led the Cowboys to a 5-3 record (after a 1-7 start) and did so in the tough NFC East with a backup QB in Jon Kitna, he could not be given a job immediately.  The Cowboys must interview a minority candidate for the head coaching spot before naming a head coach.  

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In what world is this practice not racist?  Racism is preferential treatment towards one race or inferior treatment towards one race.  Well, in this case, explain how it's okay for Jason Garrett to not be afforded the same right as Leslie Frazier.  In this instance, Garrett is given inferior treatment because he is white.  Both should be head coaches for their respective teams, regardless of their skin color.

I understand the purpose of the Rooney Rule.  I understand the intent.  But if you're a minority coach being called in for an interview, isn't there a thought in the back of your head that you're only there to satisfy a technicality?  If teams are ignorant and racist enough to not interview minority candidates, it's their loss.  The NFL shouldn't intervene on a mandatory interview process.

The above situation has happened once before, in 2003, when the Detroit Lions hired former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci without interviewing a minority candidate.  The NFL fined the Lions $200,000 for not following the rule, but the Lions claimed that all minority candidates they planned to hire withdrew their applications because they knew Mariucci basically already had the job. 

Is it the Lions' responsibility to seek out any minority willing to sit in for an interview just to satisfy a rule?  If they believed Steve Mariucci was the right guy for the job, why should they bother wasting time to interview any other candidates—minority or not?

The NFL made its point with the Rooney Rule.  But now it's time to get rid of it.