Last June, the NFL extended the Rooney Rule from head-coaching positions to certain front-office jobs. “This policy specifically requires clubs to interview at least one
minority candidate as part of the hiring process for a club’s senior
football operations position, whether described as general manager,
executive vice president of football operations, or otherwise,” the
league said in a release issued at the time.
During Thursday’s press conference to announce the elevation of Trent Baalke from director of player personnel to V.P. of player personnel, 49ers president and owner Jed York explained that the team complied with the Rooney Rule in making the change. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed via e-mail that, indeed, the Niners complied.
But the real question is whether they needed to do so (and not simply because folks from the Isle of Mipos constitute minorities). As York explained it, Baalke’s job duties aren’t changing much, if at all. Then there’s the fact that coach Mike Singletary holds “final say” over the roster, and that Baalke and Singletary have joint authority over free agents.
Though Baalke in theory controls the draft and trades, the fact that Singletary has the power to bounce whomever he wants to bounce gives the coach a significant amount of dominion, as a practical matter, over the moves Baalke could make.
So does Baalke truly hold the “senior football operations position,” as that term is used in the Rooney Rule? It’s quite possible that he doesn’t.
As we explained it on Thursday, York arguably has created a structure that places the 20-something owner in the “senior football operations position.” It could be that the 49ers complied with the Rooney Rule simply to help counter the perception that York is torso deep in the football operations.