NFL has no rule or policy regarding hiring a new coach before firing the old one

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The NFL has spoken. Sort of.

In response to a question first posed last week regarding whether the league permits a team to reach an agreement in principle with a new coach before firing the current coach, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart tells PFT, “There is no league rule or policy on this.”

It’s unclear what that means as it relates to the question of whether the Raiders violated the Rooney Rule by, as owner Mark Davis has admitted, striking a deal with Jon Gruden before firing Jack Del Rio. While the league has no rule or policy preventing a team from entering into an agreement in principle with a new coach before firing the current one, the Rooney Rule requires at least one minority candidate to be interviewed in connection with each head-coaching vacancy. If the job is never vacant, it seems that it would be impossible to comply with the Rooney Rule.

It’s possible that the league’s position will be that, as long as at least one minority candidate is interviewed at or around the time a change is made, that’s enough to comply with the Rooney Rule. After all, that approach still gives the minority candidate an opportunity to interview for a head-coaching job and to be regarded publicly as a head-coaching candidate.

The problem, of course, is that neither the interview nor the candidacy are real, if the team already has struck a deal with its next coach.

As one league source pointed out on Thursday morning, it’s possible that the Raiders and the NFL will try to tiptoe around this problem by claiming that the Raiders pre-complied with the Rooney Rule, by interviewing at least one minority candidate before agreeing to terms with Gruden. The league authorized this approach in 2010, when Washington interviewed assistant coach Jerry Gray for Jim Zorn’s coaching job, before firing Jim Zorn and inevitably hiring Mike Shanahan.

If that’s the play, it’s critical that the fact back it up. Travel records are very hard to forge after the fact, and if the Raiders’ interviews of Bobby Johnson and Tee Martin actually occurred after Gruden struck a deal with the team, the NFL could come down on the Raiders even harder.

The lingering question is whether the league wants to come down on the Raiders at all. The core problem presented by this situation could be the selective enforcement of rules, a habit of inconsistency that has plagued the league in recent years, with some teams getting slapped and others getting a pass for non-compliance with a variety of provisions and regulations.

This failure to act fairly and even-handedly at all times with all teams has done as much or more to undermine the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football as anything that any of the periodically punished teams has done.

65 responses to “NFL has no rule or policy regarding hiring a new coach before firing the old one

  1. This failure to act fairly and even-handedly at all times with all teams has done as much or more to undermine the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football as anything that any of the periodically punished teams has done.

    Boom, there it is. Raider fans & pats detractors may disagree but that only reinforces the hypocrisy.

  2. or remove the rule altogether, as it is very clear that the NFL teams have not looked at race being a determining factor for quite some time.
    I would argue, the removal of the rule would actually be better for race relations, as it would be considered a win for the black community as the rule would have done its part over the last however many years, and is no longer required.

  3. There doesn’t need to be a policy. In the corporate business world, this happens all the time – use a search firm for a “confidential vacancy”, interview and select a hire, fire the employee on Friday and the new hire starts work on Monday.

  4. So then IF Mark Davis abided by the affirmative action Rooney Rule then all rules were followed and there was no problem?

  5. My only problem is with Davis smugly saying “there’s no salary cap for coaches” after he cried poverty and stuck it to the Oakland fans because Vegas offered up more corporate welfare.

  6. Doesn’t the Rooney Rule only come into play if there is a coaching vacancy? There was never a vacancy since Gruden was hired before Del Rio was fired. There was an overlap, no vacancy.

  7. “We are pleased to announce the offer for sale of non-voting, non-managing shares in our head coach position. Favorable lending rates available!” — Packers

  8. elmerbrownelmerbrown says:

    January 11, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    Doe the NFL have a rule regarding goofy haircuts ?
    ——————————-
    Is it a toupee or not, that is the question…

    -Raider fan!

  9. If they were going to hire Gruden regardless then the minority candidates should be happy they didn’t have their time wasted. The Raiders already have a black GM so it’s obviously not a race thing. They wanted to make a big splash ahead of moving to Vegas. The best way to do that was to bring in Gruden. Move on. It’s a non story.

  10. It’d be hilarious if the Raiders interviewed somebody today and told the NFL “there you go, we complied.” It’d be absolutely no different than a token interview before announcing Gruden was the new coach so that would seemingly make everybody happy.

  11. I don’t understand how there is and NFL coaches union nor what they provide in return for union dues.

    Reason 1,000,006 why BB is the smartest HC in the NFL> He’s the only HC not in the coaches union. (Which is why he is not and never has been on Madden) Before he retired, Bill Parcels wasn’t in the coaches union either. The rest of them are being played the fool.

  12. I think is is wise to consult a dictionary from time to time.
    definition:
    racism, noun

    prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

    Merriam Webster:
    racism

    1. a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
    2 a : a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles
    b : a political or social system founded on racism
    3 : racial prejudice or discrimination

  13. There is no problem. Thought the Rooney rule dealt with forced interviews. Didn’t know it also dealt with redefining what an official contract is? Preferential treatment running wild.

  14. The Rooney Rule is a dumb rule in this day and age in the NFL. It should be repealed, like all such rules that are unnecessary and hence ignored. There, I’ve said it.

  15. The Rooney rule doesn’t solve a racial divide, it creates one.

    On another note, Mark Davis is horrifying to look at.

  16. atthemurph says:
    January 11, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    How degrading to be the token “minority” to interview.

    ===================================

    One of the primary purposes of the Rooney Rule is to give minorities experience at interviewing. Most candidates don’t get hired by the team that gives them their initial interview. Head coaching jobs in the NFL are worth millions to the lucky candidate. Somebody who has already had experience interviewing with another team is more likely to be hired by the second, or third, or fourth team that interviews him. Nothing degrading about that at all.

  17. “If the job is never vacant, it seems that it would be impossible to comply with the Rooney Rule.”

    If the “Rooney Rule” only comes into play when there’s a coaching vacancy, and there’s never a vacancy, then complying is not “impossible,” it’s just not relevant. As described here, the event that triggers the rule – a coaching vacancy – never took place, hence the rule was never triggered, and there’s no need to comply.

  18. And you’re advocating the NFL would protect the Raiders. That’s pretty laughable. Put your tin foil hat down.

  19. The Rooney rule, like many other things, is well intentioned but they are still independent business’s and can hire and fire at will as long as they honor contract terms.

  20. Why isn’t there a Rooney Rule for new ownership?

    Now that would be a fascinating study in duplicity!

  21. mantastic54 says:
    January 11, 2018 at 2:32 pm
    Gruden was getting hired regardless, why does the timing of their token interview matter?

    For the same reason that they felt a tiny puff of air (removed by nature BTW) was enough to suspend a player who they admit didn’t do anything, fine a team and steal picks after admitting they were not involved.

    It’s a rule, so take the advice Pats fans were given. Deal with it.

  22. The truth is there really wasn’t a need to interview anyone else because Mark Davis was never going to eat $25 Million (Del Rio and his staff collective remaining contract value) for any other candidate than Gruden. Had Gruden declined, Del Rio would still be coach, it is really that simple. The league will probably give the Raiders a verbal, “use better judgement next time” and move along knowing that having Gruden on the sidelines coaching in Oakland is better for ratings and attendance. Meanwhile, the league stills owes the Raiders one for asking them to give up a home goal to play Internationally for the third consecutive year.

  23. Weird you would think the Raiders are in the playoffs since every day there’s a story about them.

  24. Goodell covers for yet another AFC team yet again.

    They did interview within the Rooney Rule. If NE did this, there’d be draft picks stolen. There is no doubt about that.

  25. Agreeing to a deal and signing a deal (making it legally binding) are two different things. With your background, Florio, you should know that!

    Fact: Gruden did not sign his contract until January 9th.

    In this case, that means any interviews done prior to that date (when the did not legally have an agreement with Gruden) put them in compliance with the rule regardless of whether the Raiders had an agreement in principle with Gruden prior to conducting those interviews or not.

    Stop beating a dead horse. They followed the letter of the rule, even if they usurped the spirit of it. Case closed.

  26. Actual transcript from virtually every Rooney Rule interview:

    GM: Todd, thanks for stopping in. I’m a real fan of what you do with special teams.
    Candidate: My name’s Tom and I’m an offensive coordinator.
    GM: Great interview, Ted. We’ll let you know if there are any openings working with our defense.

  27. As for “agreement in principle”, ask Greg Schiano how that worked for him when the dotted line hasn’t been signed yet.

    Fun fact: John Gruden had been in serious discussions with the Raiders on FOUR separate occasions about coming back but only to back off at the last minute (and one was before Del Rio was hired).

  28. I am completely in favor of doing everything possible to end decades of institutionalized, internalized racism in NFL hiring practices. But if an owner or GM has picked a coach and will hire that coach no matter what, I can’t imagine hat you could do to stop it, even if the punishment when from small fines to big fines and draft picks. Or what would stop a team from creating a fake interview or two.

  29. Cause the Pats haven’t done it yet. There will be a rule pretty quickly if they do.

  30. sdelmonte says:
    January 11, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Or what would stop a team from creating a fake interview or two.
    ————————–

    Nothing, since that’s what most of them already do.

    Seems to me that since Marvin Lewis and Hue Jackson are still employed, the Rooney Rule is no longer needed.

  31. raideralex99 says:
    January 11, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    Weird you would think the Raiders are in the playoffs since every day there’s a story about them.
    ———————

    Lol. We know better.

  32. Teams from now on can interview a token minority at the same time there are negotiating with the candidate they really want. That way they won’t be breaking any rules.

  33. Wow. To the person that said that The Rooney Rule was so minorities could get experience at interviewing for jobs. So non-minorities don’t need that experience???? Sorry, I am 1 of those people who truly believe in equal rights. Your statement is not equal in any way.

  34. They did not hire Gruden until after they fired Del Rio. As to why the NFL is slipping, come on advertisements between downs. I started turning this garbage off awhile back!

  35. This failure to act fairly and even-handedly at all times with all teams has done as much or more to undermine the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football as anything that any of the periodically punished teams has done.

    —-
    This should actually be used in reference to the officiating of games.

  36. Joseph Sciara says:
    January 11, 2018 at 2:03 pm
    Doesn’t the Rooney Rule only come into play if there is a coaching vacancy? There was never a vacancy since Gruden was hired before Del Rio was fired. There was an overlap, no vacancy.

    __________________________________________________________________________________________

    Right, I don’t see anyone crying when a coach is fired mid season and someone on the staff is announced as interim head coach … is that a vacancy or did you know the OC was going to assume the position before firing. The NY Giants did it this season, I heard no one crying about a vacancy on that staff.

  37. You can cry all you want about the Rooney Rule, but the fact remains it has produced minority coaches in numbers never seen in the NFL. Before the rule was in place the maximum number of minority coaches was 3 in any given year, most years it was one or less. After the rule as many as 8 minority coaches worked in the same year.

    It’s not racism to say a minority has to receive consideration for a job. It is, however, racism to say we don’t consider minorities to be good candidates and refuse to consider them. Which is what was happening and I think the numbers bear that out. More minority coaches have been hired in the 13 years since the rule’ s inception than in the preceding years combined.

    I understand you don’t have a rule dedicated just for your race and you feel excluded, but our race hasn’t needed rules to ensure even a token interview let alone a real chance at the job. You sound like bratty children complaining that the neighbor kids got a Salvation Army Christmas package and all you got was this lousy new Xbox.

    We as a nation were not racially mature enough to hire minority coaches 12 years ago, are you so different now?

  38. I’m sure Jon Gruden’s contract was dated Tuesday, January 9th. Jack Del Rio was fired before that date. In this case, Gruden was hired after Del Rio was fired. Yawn, it’s the boring time between playoff games I guess

  39. Who cares? I understand the idea of the rule but how ridiculous is it to make someone comply with a technicality if they already know who they want to hire? He wanted Jon Gruden. So it makes a spectacle of the process to make him interview a minority candidate. If Jim Irsay wants to hire Tony Dungy again, they talk about it like Davis/Gruden, then just let them hire the guy they want.

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