A strange dynamic recently has emerged regarding compliance with the Rooney Rule. Teams are complying without specifying publicly how they complied.
It started with the Jaguars. They hired Tom Coughlin to run the show at a time when it wasn’t even publicly known that they were looking to fill the position, since the position didn’t exist. When PFT asked whether the team complied with the Rooney Rule before hiring Coughlin, the response was, essentially, “Yes, but we’re not saying how.”
More recently, the Chiefs hired a new G.M. without disclosing or leaking the names of any minority candidates. The Chiefs are willing to say there were two minority candidates, but they’re not willing to name them. The league office is fine with that approach. The Fritz Pollard Alliance is fine with that approach. That doesn’t mean the rest of us should be.
Apart from the fact that the publicity that comes from getting interviews for major NFL jobs makes the candidate potentially more attractive for other jobs (one of the express purposes of the Rooney Rule) is the question of why a candidate would want it to be a secret? For candidates currently working with other teams, keeping it a secret becomes much harder because a formal request for permission to interview the candidate must be made to the league office. Chances are, then, that the two candidates interviewed for the G.M. job in Kansas City (and the person interviewed for the job Coughlin got in Jacksonville) are currently not working for teams — and possibly are working in the media.
Members of the media who are considered for these jobs would have reasons to keep it to themselves, reasons that would counter the benefit of having their candidacy publicly known. After ESPN analyst Louis Riddick interviewed for the 49ers G.M. job, his comments about the team were scrutinized in a way that called his objectivity into question. More recently, when Riddick’s name emerged in a report from NFL Media as a candidate for the G.M. job in Kansas City, he vehemently denied it — even though PFT subsequently learned that he was indeed a candidate.
Reached by PFT for clarification on whether Riddick was interviewed, an ESPN spokesman said Riddick has no comment, and the spokesman referred PFT to Riddick’s prior tweet in which he claimed he hadn’t heard from the Chiefs. (“No, he wasn’t interviewed” would have been a lot easier to say, if that’s actually the truth.)
The NFL is committed to constantly looking for ways to improve its policies and procedures. Over the past 15 years, the league periodically has tweaked and expanded the Rooney Rule in an effort to ensure that it advances the objectives under which it was formulated. The next tweak is a simple one: Teams must announce publicly all candidates who are interviewed in person for job that falls within the scope of the Rooney Rule.