An interesting question has emerged regarding the decision of the Jaguars to make former Jaquars coach Tom Coughlin the executive V.P. of football operations. Did the Jaguars comply with the Rooney Rule before hiring Coughlin?
Compliance was required, given the nature of the role. In 2009, the league expanded the Rooney Rule to include “the hiring process for a club’s senior football operations position, whether described as general manager, executive vice president of football operations, or otherwise.” Coughlin has control of the roster in Jacksonville, and he supervises both coach Doug Marrone and G.M. Dave Caldwell. Clearly, Coughlin has the senior football operations position.
So which minority candidate did the Jaguars interview to comply with the Rooney Rule as to Coughlin’s position?
A Jaguars spokesman referred PFT to Jim Woodcock, who handles P.R. for owner Shad Khan. Via email, Woodcock said this in two separate emails: “I am afraid I cannot help you. The practice of the owner and team (in this instance and in similar interview situations) would be to refrain from disclosing the identities of other interviewees. It was a private and confidential process. . . . Indeed, the position Tom Coughlin filled required compliance with the Rooney Rule. And the Jacksonville Jaguars fully complied. Beyond that, however, it bears repeating that the interview process was private and confidential.”
The league confirmed that there was compliance.
“They complied with the rule,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said by email. “Clubs do not have to publicly disclose names of candidates they interviewed. There are candidates who may not wish to have their name made public as it could harm their relationship with their existing employer.”
Those concerns make sense in the abstract. However, one of the primary purposes of the Rooney Rule is to inject into the public domain minority candidates who could be considered for similar positions elsewhere.
Complicating the Jacksonville situation is the fact that it wasn’t even known that the Jaguars were filling the job. Thus, qualified candidates (minority and otherwise) arguably didn’t even know that there was a job to seek.
The first word of Coughlin being hired came as an oh-by-the-way report that Coughlin had been hired along with Marrone. Over time, it became clear that Coughlin wasn’t becoming an employee; he was becoming, as a practical matter, the boss.
So in the search for a new football boss, a job for which most didn’t even realize the Jaguars were searching, the Jaguars complied. They and the league won’t say how they complied.
Two years ago, a similar question emerged in Miami, when Mike Tannenbaum became the executive V.P. of football operations in Miami. Initially, the Dolphins said former G.M. Dennis Hickey reported to Tannenbaum. Once it became clear that no other candidate was interviewed for the job, the Dolphins said that Hickey doesn’t report to Tannenbaum.
Here, the question apparently isn’t about compliance but transparency. Without transparency, however, it’s impossible to prove that compliance occurred.