The NFL is saying that the Cleveland Browns complied with the Rooney Rule before making a General Manager change, but the league will not provide any details about how, exactly, the Browns complied with the rule.
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said today that the Rooney Rule, which requires every NFL team to interview at least one minority before hiring a new head coach or General Manager, was followed when the Browns fired G.M. Sashi Brown and replaced him with John Dorsey.
“In this particular case the Rooney Rule was properly applied,” Lockhart said.
But how was it applied? Lockhart declined to say which minority candidate or candidates were interviewed, and when they were interviewed. Brown was fired on Thursday morning, and reports immediately surfaced that Dorsey was the top choice to replace him. The Browns officially announced that Dorsey was hired on Thursday evening. There was no time for any other candidate to truly get a fair shake.
Lockhart said that the point of the rule is to ensure “that opportunities and real opportunities are provided to minorities.”
It’s hard to see how “real opportunities are provided to minorities” when the Browns didn’t even announce that the job was open until Thursday, and the opening was filled the same day. There might be some great scout or personnel person somewhere in the league who would be an excellent G.M. for the Browns and would have loved to apply for the job but never had that chance because there was no transparency from the Browns about the job being open.
On the league’s media conference call, Lockhart was peppered with several questions about the specific nature of the interview or interviews that the Browns conducted to satisfy the requirements of the Rooney Rule, but Lockhart wouldn’t answer those questions, other than to reiterate that the league is satisfied with the Browns’ compliance.
“It feels like we’ve run this one into the ground,” Lockhart said.
Lockhart may have felt that the questions had run the topic into the ground, but there’s one question that remains unanswered: While complying with the letter of the Rooney Rule, did the Browns also comply with the spirit of the Rooney Rule?