Fritz Pollard Alliance: DeCosta promotion does not violate Rooney Rule

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The fact that Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome is stepping down after the 2018 season and assistant G.M. Eric DeCosta will be replacing him without any interviews would seem to violate the Rooney Rule. But the Rooney Rule has a clear exception for firm commitments made to an in-house candidate in advance of the vacancy arising. That exception applies to the Ravens.

The NFL said so last week, and the Fritz Pollard Alliance said so on Tuesday.

“Several years ago, Eric DeCosta and the Baltimore Ravens reached agreement that DeCosta would succeed Hall of Famer and legendary General Manager Ozzie Newsome when Newsome steps down,” the Fritz Pollard Alliance said in a statement released on Tuesday. “Under Rooney Rule protocol, when a Club has established a firm succession plan that involves an internal coach or executive replacing a departing Head Coach or General Manager, no external search is required. Examples of such circumstances include Jim Caldwell’s succession of Tony Dungy as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and Jim Mora’s succession of Mike Holmgren as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.”

Citation to the Caldwell example seems a little odd, given that his status as a minority coach would have allowed the Colts to hire him without conducting an external search. But the Mora situation falls clearly within the terms of the little-used exception.

“DeCosta’s pending succession of Newsome does not violate the Rooney Rule,” the statement said. “The FPA salutes Ozzie Newsome for his groundbreaking tenure with the Ravens and congratulates DeCosta on his pending promotion.”

Some would say that the exception could easily consume the rule. Not many organizations, however, will be willing to create such clear commitments multiple years in advance. Circumstances change all the time, and most organizations would not want to remove flexibility by establishing a clear chain of succession.