The New Orleans Saints are in talks with Bill Parcells about becoming their interim head coach during Sean Payton’s season-long suspension. But those talks can’t progress to a formal job offer until the Saints fulfill the requirements of the Rooney Rule by interviewing a minority candidate. Which raises the question: What are the Saints going to do if they decide Parcells is the guy they want, and Parcells decides he wants the job?
The Saints’ options would be twofold: They could either hire Parcells in blatant violation of the Rooney Rule, as the Lions did with Steve Mariucci in 2003, and therefore open themselves up to further league discipline right after they faced the toughest league discipline in NFL history over their bounty scandal. Or they could start looking for a minority candidate who’s willing to go through the motions of a sham interview simply to help the Saints and the league keep up the appearance that every coaching vacancy includes a minority candidate.
Former NFL head coach Herm Edwards says that either way, the situation is a mess.
“It makes it a little bit of a scam now,” Edwards said on ESPN. “That’s the shame of it all. Sean Payton opening his mouth like he did, he really reflects that this thing is going to become a sham if Bill Parcells takes this job. Because if you do decide to interview a minority, you’re going to go with Bill Parcells. You’ve already said, ‘This is our coach.’ That’s the shame of it all. It puts the commissioner in another bind.”
Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice was seated next to Edwards on the SportsCenter set when the subject came up, and Rice questioned whether any minority candidate would agree to interview for the Saints’ interim head coaching job. All indications out of New Orleans are that if the Saints go outside the franchise for an interim head coach, they’re going to hire Parcells. And that means any minority candidate they interview would know in advance that the purpose of the interview is to satisfy the letter of the Rooney Rule, even after they’ve already violated the spirit of the Rooney Rule.
“I know for me, I would not want to go do an interview if I’m not going to get that job,” Rice said.
Edwards added that the Saints have already, by reaching out to Parcells but not reaching out to any minorities, indicated that they’re going to go after the coach they want and not broaden their coaching search to include minority candidates, which the Rooney Rule is designed to make teams do.
“They’re making a mockery of the rule right now,” Edwards said.