Officially, the Raiders complied with the Rooney Rule by interviewing at least one minority candidate for the vacant head-coaching job before hiring a new coach. Unofficially, the Raiders by all appearances violated the Rooney Rule because they hired a new head coach before the vacancy even existed.
The intelligence-insulting facts that continue to hide in plain sight suggest the following timeline: (1) at some point before last Friday, Gruden’s agent and the Buccaneers had a conversation in which it became clear that the Buccaneers would not be matching or beating the package Oakland had offered to Gruden; (2) at some point before Sunday, the Raiders and Gruden reached an agreement in principle; (3) confident that they had a deal with Gruden, the Raiders fired Jack Del Rio on Sunday.
If the Raiders hadn’t had a deal with Gruden upon firing Del Rio, Gruden would have acquired even more leverage than he already possessed. Indeed, if the possible deal failed to become an actual deal after the Raiders had fired Del Rio, the Raiders would have been screwed. So there’s no way that any owner in his right mind (regardless of hairstyle choices) would have cut Del Rio loose without knowing that Gruden was committed.
Logic suggest that Gruden was committed before Del Rio was terminated, which means that when the Rooney Rule interviews happened there was, as a practical matter, no job to interview for.
Of course, proving that would require the league to launch the kind of investigation typically reserved for teams that the NFL wants to catch red-handed. The league is fully invested in the Raiders relocating to Las Vegas as a thriving franchise, and having a magnetic and engaging personality like Gruden as the face of the franchise advances that goal. In other words, don’t hold your breath (or any other bodily functions) waiting for the league to investigate what appears to be an obvious violation of the Rooney Rule.
That’s not the only rule being violated, apparently. With Gruden not officially employed by the Raiders but unofficially employed by the Raiders, he can tamper with coaches, front-office executives, and players at will. Think about the people he knows after nine years of Monday Night Football. During this awkward period during when everyone knows he’s getting the job but he hasn’t gotten the job yet, he can talk to anyone and everyone under contract with other teams, with no apparent consequence.
The league routinely cites the integrity of and public confidence in pro football when choosing to take action against those teams the league chooses to take action against. In this case, where those notions are being undermined in various ways by a done deal that technically isn’t a done deal, the league likely will do nothing — and every team that ever finds itself in the crosshairs of 345 Park Avenue should be ready to cite this example the next time the league decides to aggressively enforce rules that everyone is breaking and/or no one really even knew about.