NFL determined Jon Gruden’s Christmas Eve consensus with Raiders wasn’t an “offer”

Getty Images

The NFL has said that the Raiders didn’t violate the Rooney Rule in connection with the hiring of coach Jon Gruden. That’s the easy part; the hard part is reconciling the league’s conclusion with things owner Mark Davis publicly said.

Elaborating on Friday’s announcement of a finding of compliance, the league providing the following quote to PFT via email on Saturday: “The club conducted bona fide interviews with minority candidates as part of its search process. The Rooney Rule requires NFL clubs consider at least one minority candidate for the head coach position as part of the hiring process before extending an offer to any coach. We concluded that happened in this case.”

The quote, standing alone, was eye-opening. Davis essentially admitted on January 9 that he had a deal with Gruden before firing Del Rio, and that Del Rio wouldn’t have been fired if Gruden wasn’t “all-in.”

So how can teams essentially line up the next coach without running afoul of the Rooney Rule? Apparently, it’s the absence of formality that saved the Raiders — and that creates the template for all other franchises moving forward.

As a source with knowledge of the situation explained it to PFT, the league determined via its investigation that the Christmas Eve discussion between Davis and Gruden did not amount to a contract offer, given the absence of lawyers or agents and/or the discussion or negotiation of a formal offer.

Of course, this cries out for further investigation as to what happened in the ensuing days, before Del Rio was fired. If, after all, Del Rio were fired before Gruden were essentially hired, the leverage would have swung dramatically to Gruden. Surely, Davis realized the risks of letting the bird in the hand go without knowing with certainty that he’d be capturing the two in the bush.

It appears that the investigation focused only on ruling out that a done deal happened as of Christmas Eve (despite what Davis said) and not on determining whether an informal handshake became something more official before Del Rio received a pink slip. Which provides a clear Rooney Rule avoidances roadmap to any other team: It’s OK to pick the next coach before firing the current one, it’s OK to make sure he wants to be the next coach, and it’s OK to discuss the terms in the absence of lawyers or contractual formalities. Then, after all winking and nodding has ended, it’s OK  to fire the current coach, interview at least one minority candidate, and make the informal arrangement with the pre-selected coach final and official.

And thus the NFL will continue to have it both ways when it comes to the Rooney Rule, proudly waving a flag of diversity and inclusion while privately allowing teams to navigate around the letter and spirit of the rule at will. Frankly, it would be better to have no Rooney Rule at all than to have one that isn’t real.

33 responses to “NFL determined Jon Gruden’s Christmas Eve consensus with Raiders wasn’t an “offer”

  1. Give it a rest already! Here’s the reality of things. If Mike Tomlin was fired tomorrow, another team would scoop him up immediately without interviewing anyone else. If Tony Dungy made himself available, a team would probably hire him ASAP and not need to interview anyone else. Gruden is white, so what? The NFL has progressed to the point where color of skin doesn’t matter, and that’s great! The true sign of actual progress is when we don’t care and don’t think about race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else other than “can they coach football”?

  2. Because, INTEGRITY!

    Anyone who believes anything that comes out of the league office is a fool. They spent millions on a witch hunt but now they turn a blind eye.

    Anyone who believed their nonsensical missive about air pressure should feel their face turning red right about now. The duplicity should be shocking but we know how they roll.

  3. Bottom line is the NFL let the Raiders slide because they need ratings and a screaming Gruden is good for ratings. Money talks and the Rooney Rule takes a walk.

  4. This site is obsessed with the Rooney Rule. The purpose of which is to ensure that minority candidates get an interview in certain hiring processes. If I’m not mistaken, at no time was it to be a legitimate interview, but an interview designed to enhance exposure, interview experience, and future opportunity for then very underrepresented candidates. One might even intelligently present that it’s had it’s desired effect. So what’s the problem in this instance… the Raiders complied by interviewing two candidates, then they hired Gruden. These men got their exposure and interview experience.

    Question: Does PFT have a similar process for hiring as a major player in sports reporting? Or do you just nitpick others compliance?

    Follow up: Will you dare post this and address it directly?

  5. I don’t see what the big deal is all NFL teams usually have a top candidate in mind when they fire a coach. The Raiders are the one team that doesn’t need a rule to hire without prejudice. They are the only team that has hired multiple minority head coaches, a minority GM, and a women executive. The NFL knows their track record. If the NFL tried to crack down on the Raiders hiring practices then the whole league would also need a reform.

  6. They need to look into the mental stability of Davis…pays for haircuts that bad, drives an old mini van, still uses an old flip phone, calls the bar at P. F. Chang’s his office.
    Yeah, this won’t end in tears deposited in the Vegas desert.

  7. Mr Florio, you have done several articles over the years on the “Rooney rule” and so have countless other sports reporters. Have you ever seen the verbiage of the rule? If not, how can you say whether it was or was not violated? As far as I have been able to find, it exists only in the form of 2 press releases and various media talking points. It has not been ratified in NFL by-laws, spelled out in any policy memorandum or even mentioned in any operations manual. How is something as vague or amorphous as the “Rooney rule” seems to be enforceable in any way? If you do manage to find a written policy specifying the requirements, could you please post them on your site. As it stands now, all the hand-wringing by the NFL, FPA and sports reporters seems hypothetical at this point because nobody can point to anything that shows they are right or wrong.

  8. I support the idea of the Rooney rule, but it does make it pretty hard to do certain things you might want to do to get a new coach, like hire them before you fire the current coach, or lure a big name from college or media/retirement. You want to still have that flexibility as an owner to make big moves and that is hard to do if you are signaling to everyone you have a open coaching position.

  9. cmonitsfunny says:
    January 20, 2018 at 7:47 pm
    They need to look into the mental stability of Davis…pays for haircuts that bad, drives an old mini van, still uses an old flip phone, calls the bar at P. F. Chang’s his office.
    Yeah, this won’t end in tears deposited in the Vegas desert.


    I’ve seen the haircut. I have to ask, “Is the rest of the statement based on truth or just a great imagination?”

    If it’s imagination, you need to start writing books or screenplays. That’s good stuff!

  10. >.Give it a rest already! Here’s the reality of things. If Mike Tomlin was fired tomorrow, another team would scoop him up immediately without interviewing anyone else.

    Would they?
    Is Tomlin that good a HC?
    I don’t follow the Steelers but does he do that good a job?
    Was it the special coaches he hired that turned Antonio Brown into a super star?
    He taught Rothlisberger how to throw.
    What about Le’veon Bell, did his coaches teach him how to play?

    Maybe the Steelers really do have some good WR coaches.
    I’ll credit Tomlin for hiring a couple of good coaches.
    But does he do a good job as a game day HC?

  11. I believe the Rooney Rule has been directly responsible on some level for increasing diversity in coaching and management positions and therefore overall has been a successful rule. That being said it is silly to make such a big deal out of it in this situation. Gruden is obviously a coach that teams outside of the Raiders would love to hire and if a team wants to go after a top coach such as him without truly considering a non Caucasian there should be absolutely no issue with that. Does anyone really believe someone would overwhelm the raiders so much in an interview that they would choose to hire him over Gruden? And someone will still get experience in an interview either way as long as the interview simulates a realistic interview.

  12. So you’re mad because the minority they interviewed was just a formality? Where have you been? They followed the rule as it’s written.

  13. niners816 says:
    January 20, 2018 at 7:20 pm
    There’s one song that comes to mind when I read these stories: Cry Me A River by Justin Timberlake.

    23 4 Rate This


    please turn in your man card


  14. jlkintyre says:
    January 20, 2018 at 8:17 pm


    I’ve seen the haircut. I have to ask, “Is the rest of the statement based on truth or just a great imagination

    Read the ESN story, if you were a Raider fan you would know it’s all true.

  15. Actual rules skirted by “absence of formality”
    Sheesh…. and yet going against a memo from the head clown, or going over a cap in an uncapped year, resulted in unheard of punishments.

  16. Dan Quinn was the first coach to agree when the Falcons signed him. But he was the last coach signed. That’s why everyone else made agreements while he was still out there.
    The Titans signed Vabril (I’ll figure how to spell it later) because the guy the wanted has agreed to go to Indy. But he is not signed. The Giants guy is done deal, so is Detroit. That’s why the other teams aren’t waiting for the Pats, Eagles and/or Vikings to be eliminated. Those coaches have agreed.
    Same with Gruden.
    Now in each, including Gruden, including Quinn, something could or could have caused the agreement to blow up. Like Bellichek’s career as the Jets coach. We should expect The Titans checked to see if the Indy agreement could be torched.
    But for reporters or bloggers to make big stories out of this is silly.
    Gruden and the Raiders agreed, so what? This system does run pretty smooth. Would it be better for the Bucs, Bears, Titans, Bengals and any other team have to wait until after the Super Bowl to find out they were a candidates second choice?

  17. In my life I have interviewed thousands of people, and made more offers that I can count. And you know what? I’ve had candidates accept verbal offers, and decline it when they see it in writing. I’ve seen candidates accept an offer in writing and then either not show up on day 1, or come back later and decline the offer because they received a better one (in their opinion).

    That’s why we don’t consider recruitment to be completed until the candidate shows up for work on day 1.

    Who cares if he accepted verbally an offer, or agreed to parameters before Del Rio was fired. Me personally, I don’t know why they are so excited about hiring Gruden – but they do have the choice to do so. And Rooney rule doesnt require a candidate to be be viable, just that they are a minority that is interviewed. I understand the intent – but the rule is nonsense.

  18. Honestly, this isn’t what the Rooney rule is intended for. Its to make sure that teams that are adding a new member to the ranks of head coaches consider the top minority talent.

    If Tony Dungy were available, he would have no trouble getting a job, and unheralded minority and non-minority candidates would have no chance.

    Oakland interviewed two next-gen minority candidates. Had they thought that either was superior to Gruden, they could have (and surely would have) hired them. But there was no chance of that. You can’t compare a former superbowl winning head coach to somebody who has never been a head coach. That’s not Oakland’s fault. That’s a result of the candidates.

  19. It,is amazing how the NFL front office manipulates facts to
    suit it’s desired outcome. Who are we kidding here?
    The Raiders clearly violated the Rooney rule. The Raiders
    failed to conduct an open interviews of candidates that
    included minority candidates.
    This is a consistent process that Goodell and leadership
    are starting to perfect. The deflate-gate investigation,
    the Zeke Elliot investigation , Bonus gate were remarkably
    sub- standard investigations that had indicia of the
    Commissioners office deciding players were guilty before
    the evidence was fairly and throughly reviewed.
    This is actually embarrassing. It is clear the Raiders screwed
    up. Finally .the Rooney rule was created by Dan Rooney
    a fine and respected owner. It was Dan Rooney who supported
    Roger Goodell for Commissioner. It’s a shame Roger has not returned
    the respect Mr. Rooney deserves .

  20. I agree with those who look forward to a time when we don’t need the Rooney Rule, and other rules like it, with regard to hiring, housing, membership, etc. I don’t think NFL owners are at a point yet where the rule is not needed. That said, the rule should be waived in cases where a team knows definitively who they want to hire as head coach, and said hire is a veteran NFL head coach with an established record of success, such as Gruden, Andy Reid, Joe Gibbs, and that famous running-afoul-of-the-rule hiring, Steve Mariucci.

  21. The “rule” should be amended, so that if your CURRENT coach or GM is of color, then you can hire the opposite position without adhering to the rule.

  22. The only thing this highlights is how stupid the rule is…if any good comes out of this it would not be a penalty to the raiders…it will be the rule is dead

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!