Rooney Rule getting another workout in Carolina

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If the NFL really wanted to make a difference in fair hiring practices, the most honest first step might be to rename the Rooney Rule the Rooney Suggestion.

Because after the Raiders wiped their feet all over the league’s mandate that minority candidates get chances at leadership positions, a slightly less obvious version of the same process is unfolding in Carolina.

The Panthers are “interviewing” candidates for the permanent General Manager position this week, including Texans executive Jimmy Raye III and Bills personnel man Lake Dawson (who interviewed there in 2013 when Dave Gettleman got the job).

They may sit and have lunch or a cup of coffee, but they’re not going to have a formal interview with interim and former G.M. Marty Hurney. The casual approach is largely because Hurney’s going to end up with the job and everyone in their building knows it, and his background there (putting many of the pieces in place for their recent run of four playoff seasons the last five years) makes a formal interview moot.

Just as the Raiders did with Jon Gruden, the Panthers effectively know what they’re going to do before they do it. The difference is, nobody there is crass enough to say it out loud, the way Raiders owner Mark Davis did when he admitted he reached an agreement with Gruden before firing Jack Del Rio. By definition, that made his interviews with tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and Southern Cal offensive coordinator Tee Martin a sham.

But make no mistake, Panthers chief operating officer Tina Becker is expected to extend Hurney’s deal beyond its current expiration in June, the same way she did for coach Ron Rivera (and new defensive coordinator Eric Washington). It doesn’t equate to long-term security since the team’s for sale and a new owner can do whatever he or she pleases, but Becker is going to hand over the keys to a fully staffed football operation when the deal goes down.

Teams have the right to zero in on candidates of their preference, and if an owner decided that Gruden or Tony Dungy or Bill Cowher or Hurney or fill in any name was his guy, it’s hard to make them reconsider, regardless any policy that requires minority candidates to interview.

Part of the problem stems from a lack of numbers, and increasing the amount of people in the pipeline is a bigger issue than making sure the few guys in the pipeline get to sit with decision-makers. And if the league wanted to make a real difference, they’d do something to increase the opportunities on the personnel side. The Nunn-Wooten scouting fellowship is a lesser-known companion to the Bill Walsh coaching fellowship, which sends a number of coaches to training camps each year. And while a few former players are making inroads, it’s clear that the progress the league was hoping for with the Rooney Rule isn’t bearing fruit.

The league’s lack of enforcement and/or guidance isn’t helping things either, since clearing the Raiders sends the signal that no one’s ever going to be punished. And until the NFL takes the matter seriously, there’s no fair expectation for teams to, either.

18 responses to “Rooney Rule getting another workout in Carolina

  1. And if all of a sudden if Belichick became available, how many teams would you expect to consider someone other than Belichick??

    Your answer will tell you how many fools you think own a NFL team.

  2. The vast majority of people realize the rule isn’t needed and causes more trouble than good.

    Not everybody though, evidently.

  3. Chris Landry did a really nice job on his podcast explaining the value of the Rooney Rule even in cases where the team knows who they want to hire. In such a small circle as the NFL, word of a really good interview/candidate gets around even if he didn’t get the job. He explained that those cases were not shams at all…that the interviews themselves were opportunities that can pay off in the future. Made a lot of sense.

  4. I hope Becker gives these gentlemen a legitimate shot at the job. Dawson and Raye are two of the sharpest minds in the business. The Panthers would be foolish not to hear them out and weigh their candidacies on the merits.

  5. I see, in theory, how the tile is good. However, what should the Panthers do? Not hire Hurney to be the permanent guy? If he is already there and they think he is the right guy, what else should the Panthers do? I think they are trying to honor the rule the best they can. Seriously what else are teams supposed to do?

  6. The Rooney Rule is working exactly the way it was intended. The people that are crying about it are people that thought it would force hires without actually making it seem like it was a force, and that isn’t what the Rooney Rule was ever meant to be. More minority coaches have been sought out and hired with the rule in place, so it is working, but that seems to never be enough. Because a minority group isn’t the majority at something, that must mean racism, and the rule isn’t working and it is all a sham.

  7. I’m a big supporter of the Rooney Rule, but continuing to bring up the Raiders is actually harming the whole idea. Public support is very important when you get into this territory, and the public supports the idea of hiring the most qualified person for the job, regardless of race. So when a guy like Pat Shurmur gets a job, they need to interview minority candidates. He’s never done anything. Same goes for guys like Kyle Shanahan and Josh McDaniel. But when you look at the success of Jon Gruden, and his relationship with the owner, any semi-intelligent person who’s being honest would agree that Gruden is overwhelmingly the best candidate for the Raiders job. So continuing to hammer the Raiders, because of Jon Gruden’s race, is changing the minds of a lot of Rooney Rule supporters. The public backlash will hurt minority hiring in the long run. And oh, by the way, the Raiders did comply with the rule. The media’s irresponsible attack on the Raiders has already damaged the popularity of the Rooney Rule. Perhaps that was the goal.

  8. I think there is this belief that because a majority of the players are African American, that it should be reflected in coaching and personnel but this of course ignores that the skills required to be a great player aren’t the same as those required to be a great coach or evaluator.

    Some great players have made for great coaches or evaluators, most great coaches and evaluators weren’t great players. Many stopped playing the game in college, if they even got that far.

    Teams should hire the best candidate possible. Its certainly reasonable to ask for equal opportunity but it seems some are demanding an unequal outcome.

  9. The Rooney Rule – yet another reason for fans to hate the NFL. Reverse discrimination is discrimination – and should be banned. Hire the best person available for the job, regardless of race, color, creed, or even gender. And I believe that’s already what the owners are doing. This rule has GOT to go – it was never a good idea.

  10. Put the Carolina situation aside. Let’s play the what if game. What if a team genuinely is undecided about a coach or GM and reaches out to one or two highly qualified minority candidates (candidates the team would love to have), but both decline to be interviewed. They then reach out to a non-minority candidate who interviews and blows them away. They want to hire him. Do the Rooney Rule proponents believe the team must then reach out to other minority candidates before extending an offer? If so, wouldn’t those be sham interviews too much like the Raiders?

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