The hiring of Todd Bowles exposes a previously unknown Rooney Rule loophole

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In 2009, the Buccaneers fired Jon Gruden and promptly installed Raheem Morris without conducting a full search. The move complied with the Rooney Rule as written at the time, because the rule required only one minority interview. If a team were instantly hiring a minority head coach, it necessarily complied with the requirements of the rule.

In 2022, a different Rooney Rule applies. Now, the rule requires two interviews of external minority candidates. Thus, even though the Buccaneers have elevated a Black assistant coach to the position of head coach, the process technically violates the terms of the Rooney Rule, since the Buccaneers should have connected a search that included at least two external minority interviews.

But there’s a twist, one that previously hadn’t been revealed in nearly 20 years of the Rooney Rule. According to the NFL, the Rooney Rule doesn’t apply after March 1, because coaching staffs essentially become locked on March 1. The Buccaneers couldn’t conduct a search consisting of assistant coaches from other teams, because after March 1 teams are no longer required to allow assistant coaches to interview for head-coaching jobs. Thus, the Buccaneers were able to make a hire without interviewing at least two external minority candidates.

The reaction to the utilization of this loophole surely would have been much different if Arians had been replaced by a white assistant coach. Quite possibly, the loophole would have been quickly closed if that had happened.

Perhaps it should be closed anyway. What if Cowboys owner Jerry Jones now decides to court Sean Payton? Jones could fire Mike McCarthy and replace him with Payton without conducting a single interview. Alternatively, Jones could do it after March 1, 2023.

Or Jones could fire McCarthy today and elevate defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

We now know, thanks to the Arians-Bowles baton handoff, what the rule is for post-March 1 vacancies. Here’s what it should be. If the head coach leaves after March 1, he can be replaced by any current member of the staff on an interim basis. Then, after the upcoming season, a full search must occur. If, alternatively, a non-interim hire is going to be made before the upcoming season, the search must fully comply with the Rooney Rule, even if current assistant coaches from other teams are off limits.

If Jerry Jones or anyone else ever uses that loophole to hire a non-minority head coach, that loophole will immediately be drowned in cement.

77 responses to “The hiring of Todd Bowles exposes a previously unknown Rooney Rule loophole

  1. Yes. Owners can and will hire the person they want and often times know who it is before interviews take place. Post March 1 the Rooney rule interviews would be even more of a sham.

  2. Here’s your new rule:

    The Rooney Rule goes away. Teams interview and hire who they want to interview or hire regardless of race, sex, or media biases.

  3. “If the head coach leaves after March 1, he can be replaced by any current member of the staff on an interim basis. Then, after the upcoming season, a full search must occur.” … I would love for Bowles to win a Super Bowl and then Tampa be forced to interview other coaches. What a joke.

  4. All of these rules are… SOOO dumb.

    But the people making these rules are the same people who can’t figure out how overtime works, or what a catch is, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

  5. It’s a stupid rule anyway. Usually teams already have in mind who they want to hire when they conduct interviews. Interviewing 2 minority candidates has simply become a formality. If Jerry Jones wants Sean Payton for example, no minority coach interview will change his mind. So essentially the interviews are a waste of time.

  6. Well, it appears the Bucs were aware of this rule since they didn’t conduct any outside interviews. The fact the media hadn’t done their homework is irrelevant.

  7. it is also possible that Bowles contract guaranteed him the HC job if Arians resigned or was terminated thereby not invoking the Rooney Rules.

  8. The entire purpose of the Rooney Rule is to ensure that minority candidates get a fair shake and are afforded equal interviewing opportunities. In this case the team hired a minority. No harm, no foul.

  9. In the example given above about Jerry Jones, as well as when the Raiders re-hired Jon Gruden several years ago, both teams had head coaches they didn’t plan on moving on from. With the Raiders, they would not have moved on from Del Rio if Gruden was not interested. Therefore, there should be no reason to interview any minority candidates if a successor was already picked. Same with the Cowboys. Jerry will keep McCarthy unless Payton expressed interest to join the Cowboys. It’s not really a loophole if the owner/GM only have one person in mind for the role.

  10. It will be interesting to see how Bowles does in his second HC stint. Good luck to him.

  11. Isn’t the point of the Rooney Rule to get more minority coaches hired? So the scenario of the Bucs achieves the intended goal, whereas the Jerry Jones scenario would be looking to get around it. I think if the goal is met, then whether the process was followed completely shouldn’t matter.

  12. Does it apply during the season too? So when the Raiders fired Gruden mid-season last year did they technically break the Rooney rule?

  13. Correct. You can’t apply one standard to one race and a different standard to another. This is the very definition of inequality.

  14. One issue I haven’t seen addressed:

    If Bowles had been hired as a HC by another team the Bucs would have received two 3rd round picks in the next draft for having a minority assistant coach/coordinator hired as a head coach. Do they get these 2 draft picks if he’s promoted to HC from a coordinator position within the same team?

  15. If you have a succession plan in place to replace the current head coach with an assistant you’ve identified from your own team, what’s the chance that you’re going to find a minority head coach that another team is willing to let you interview after March 1 that you like better? Zero.

    I don’t think the post-March 1 thing is a “loophole.” It seems like a recognition that this would only happen with an unexpected termination or retirement and you’re almost always going to elevate someone from within in that case. External interviews are a sham at that point and let’s not go through the theater of it.

  16. Can anyone please explain why Brady wanted BA gone, to be replaced by Bowles?

    Bowles wasn’t a good head coach. Is he going to hand offense over to Tom like Bruce did? Very doubtful. Tom came out of retirement because of the possibility that Todd will be his coach?

    Sorry, it makes no sense for Tom to want Bruce out and Bowles in. Did Tom tell the Bucs who to hire? Why would he choose Bowles if a SB win is his goal.

    He didn’t. Bruce as everyone knows has a lot of health issues. It was time for him to move on. It’s that simple.

  17. not good when the best/most qualified person does not get the job and is bowles record with the jets which is what 24-40 make him the best/most qualified coach to take over?? the only thing that allows this to happen is having brady as qb, so hopefully bowles is going to stay out of the offense and keep the d tight.

  18. I absolutely HATE the Rooney rule…..
    Owners should be allowed to hire the coaches they feel give them the best chance to win & lead & those coaches can hire the staff they wish to use to help them best succeed……
    Black, White, whatever…. Best qualified period!!!

  19. The Rooney Rule was created with good intentions. However, we have seen multiple times where minority coaches are interviewed and don’t get a job. This comes across as teams just checking a box. Now as this article points out, there is a loophole that even circumvents checking those boxes.

    Unless there is a foolproof way to give minority coaches a fair shot, the Rooney Rule will always be rooted in good intentions, but ultimately will not get minority coaches hired if a team has a certain coach in their sights. This seems like it will do just as much bad as good. How many minority coaches will want to take interviews if they are pretty sure that team is just using them to check a box?

  20. I think we should reflect for a moment and consider if a single minority HC has ever been hired in the decades of having the Rooney Rule. I’d wager not a single one, but who knows?

    Seems all performative and superficial to stroke the egos of the owners as progressive. Especially Rooney, who wanted the namesake. What a beautiful legacy.

  21. I don’t think they’d have to follow the rule even if it were before March 1. Unless something changed which it’s quite possible it did, you don’t need to comply with the rule if you’re naming a successor from your current staff, you only need to comply if you’re going through the full interview process

  22. I believe Coach Flores will possibly be adding another NFL team in the NFCS to his lawsuit!

  23. kissbillsrings says:
    I absolutely HATE the Rooney rule…..
    Owners should be allowed to hire the coaches they feel give them the best chance to win & lead & those coaches can hire the staff they wish to use to help them best succeed……
    Black, White, whatever…. Best qualified period!!!
    —————————–

    I agree, Rooney rule is dumb.
    But the owners can still do everything you mentioned, but they just have to comply with the sham interviews leading up to it. The Jim Caldwell treatment.

  24. So, Belichick’s sons and all the other sons in the NFL just happen to be the best qualified?

  25. rd6917 says:
    March 31, 2022 at 10:23 am
    Here’s your new rule:

    The Rooney Rule goes away. Teams interview and hire who they want to interview or hire regardless of race, sex, or media biases.
    ___________

    The Rooney Rule exists because hires were being made because of racial biases. Please look at the historical racial make up of head coaches prior to the Rooney Rule and tell me that you honestly believe that there was no racial bias against Black coaches.

  26. Requiring two interviews when elevating an internal minority candidate makes zero sense. I’d like to see what kind of punishment would be administered if the hiring was done before March 1 in violation of the rule.

  27. Yes, get rid of the Rooney Rule. However, there should be something else in place to encourage minority hires. The hiring of a coach is about relationships. In particular, the relationship between the GM and the head coach. As I see it, the reason minority coaches aren’t being hired is because the GMs feel a stronger connection to other people. I believe this feeling can be changed by having a one-day “Coaches Convention”. It would be like a job fair, but with a potential coach at each booth. There could be 200+ coach booths. The convention should have 50% minority candidates. Here’s the kicker: **All GMs and their staff are required to attend.** This way, all GMs are talking with minority candidates and making connections. Then when it comes time to hire a head coach or assistant coach, the GM can feel good about selecting a handful of minority candidates to interview, because they have already established a connection. The ice has been broken. The GM can be more objective in assessing statistics, leadership qualities, etc. without giving thought to a “rule” that he hasn’t been following anyway. Work on building relationships, rather than enforcing mandates. The cream will rise to the top.

  28. What about GM jobs? It’s not unusual for those to turnover in May, after the draft. Pittsburgh would be a current example.

  29. chickenbiscuit says:
    March 31, 2022 at 10:39 am
    Correct. You can’t apply one standard to one race and a different standard to another. This is the very definition of inequality.

    ______________________________

    The Rooney rule doesn’t apply any standard to any race. Since certain franchises are apparently incapable of even providing the appearance of equity in hiring practices, the Rooney rule forces OWNERSHIP to merely appear to consider minorities, because otherwise they wouldn’t.

  30. Or perhaps, let the teams hire whoever they want without been force to conduct phantom interviews.

  31. What difference does it make if a minority candidate is in-house or external? The Bucs knew Todd Bowles was going to be the successor whenever Arians leaves. Everyone knew it. Not officially of course but apparent to everyone. If you are going to make the Bucs interview 2 external candidates and they are going to hire Bowles anyway, why waste everyone’s time?

    I don’t think the Rooney rule should apply to in-house succession hires like this. Are you telling me you want the Bucs to waste everyone’s time and interview Bienemy for a job he has no chance in getting? This rule is totally ridiculous.

  32. “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” So I pose this question. Why do so many people believe the Rooney rule forces ownership to hire unqualified candidates?

  33. I will let others make remarks on the usefulness of the rule, but I have to take exception with the internal/external aspect. What sense does it make to force a team to hire from outside their own organization? You’ve got folks who work long and hard for promotions and then you force the front office to go outside to find quality candidates? That just doesn’t make any sense. The rule seems to be intended to get more opportunities for minority candidates. Adding the internal/external dynamic just doesn’t add anything. What it DOES do is it TAKES OPPORTUNITIES AWAY from minority candidates within the current team org chart and gives those opportunities to outside minority candidates. Makes ZERO sense. If the intended goal of this scheme is to ensure that teams simply hire more minorities (or, at the least, make the opportunities available), that clearly is not the actual outcome of the scheme. So, it’s a bogus scheme in its entirety and needs to go.

  34. Has Brian Flores filed a law suit yet claiming he should have been hired for the Tampa job?

  35. Kladium says:
    March 31, 2022 at 10:26 am
    I long for the day when everything is content of character and skillsets
    ____________
    So do visible minorities.

  36. nite2al says:
    So, Belichick’s sons and all the other sons in the NFL just happen to be the best qualified?

    ————-

    There’s more than just “the most qualified” that goes into every single hiring decision everywhere and the NFL is no exception. For example, the most qualified coordinator might also be a hot head coaching candidate and therefore may not be the best fit. Out in the real world, candidates that aren’t local might be highly likely to want to move back home within a couple of years. Or maybe you can hire a promising “young mind” who gets to come up and learn under your coach and your system, eventually becoming home grown talent.

    Sometimes optics are involved and you get a hire like Lovey Smith where the NFL maybe, sorta wanted a minority to get a head coaching job because of what was going on with the Brian Flores situation. It really has to be looked at from a more broad perspective.

  37. This rule was well intentioned but completely idiotic. It creates situations where teams HAVE to do sham interviews and black folks have to suffer the indignity of them. It needs to go.

  38. The rule is dumb. The intent of the rule we get and most people support it. The results however put people in positions to fail. The owners are going to hire who they want regardless of the rule.

  39. Let’s say I bought an airplane for a 400 million. I have 300 passengers on board. I have their lives and the livelihood of their families. Perhaps companies that have put thousands into developing individuals for their company on board. Now let’s say that I have to hire a pilot that potentially doesn’t know how to fly the airplane, in order to diversify the # of pilots in the air.. would you want to be a passenger knowing the pilot might not be qualified? Teams should be allowed to hire who they want based off of skill and/or experience.

  40. Almost all NFL teams have had a minority head coach at some point in their history. You can slice and dice the numbers any way that you’d like, but pretending that everything is just going to magically flip a switch and be perfectly “equal” is a wild way of thinking to me. Is the league going to force fire all 32 coaches and then dictate how many of each race will make up the head coaches based on some census data or something?

    There is a lot involved here and I’m sure there were discriminatory practices in the past (and probably still). But you don’t fix a discrimination problem by making it more discriminatory.

  41. Imagine if the Bucs had gotten in trouble for promoting a minority coach, who they knew well and trusted, because they didn’t interview any outside minority coaches. What a time to be alive.

  42. This rule is trash. Bowles got the job because he knows the system and is the best person for it. Period.

    Whatever Jerry does is on him and unrelated to this event, or the rule. If anything he’d probably want to cast a wider net because promoting from within doesn’t seem like a solid idea.

  43. So basically it shows how completely ridiculous the Rooney Rule is. It’s actually insulting in many many ways.

  44. Is this really a “previously unknown loohole” or are they just making it up as they go along?

  45. With the Rooney Rule, team owners can still hire whoever the hell they want. They just have to embarrass a few individuals, that may or may not be minorities first, by conducting sham interviews with them, then going ahead and hiring their primary target, who once again, may or may not be a minority. The whole process is a stupid sham, it embarrasses people, and should just be done away with. I believe we’re in a time and place where the cream, regardless of its color, race, nationality, etc, will rise to the top.

  46. BrewCrew says:
    March 31, 2022 at 12:58 pm
    Let’s say I bought an airplane for a 400 million. I have 300 passengers on board. I have their lives and the livelihood of their families. Perhaps companies that have put thousands into developing individuals for their company on board. Now let’s say that I have to hire a pilot that potentially doesn’t know how to fly the airplane, in order to diversify the # of pilots in the air.. would you want to be a passenger knowing the pilot might not be qualified? Teams should be allowed to hire who they want based off of skill and/or experience.
    ____________

    Let’s say that you have those 300 lives in your hands but you have a less qualified pilot because you refused to hire a more qualified minority because of their skin color. Would you be comfortable as a passenger just because the less qualified pilot was white?

  47. Bowles is a very poor head coach and gam manager . Look for the Bucs to go 4-13 or 5-12. Brady goes out on the bottom

  48. In business, a multi billion dollar corporation when its leader is about to retire, hires a leader in training a few years in advance so that there is a smooth transition of power.

    NFL teams are multi-billion dollar corporations. I don’t see the problem.

  49. Ok, fine. Tell everyone you were just kidding about hiring Todd Bowles, and interview two minority candidates. Then hire Bowles.

  50. Meanwhile Brian Flores is kicking,
    Screaming,and pounding the table while loudly sobbing how unfair that
    Was because he was overlooked for the job.

  51. as long as the biased owners and gm’s remain the way they are the majority of head coach jobs will be the way they are

  52. I was wondering do the Bucaneers get 3 extra draft picks now that somebody hired their minority defensive coordinator to be head coach?

  53. Good god they hired a black guy have a black OC and you’re STILL mad about it! This is just proof the rule needs to be abolished because it’s never gonna please anyone and is just making a mockery of things.

  54. Lost in all of this is that Bruce Ariens took Todd Bowles under his wing well over a decade ago and has been his mentor, boss and biggest champion. Good people is how this changes things.

  55. Any smart owner, Jones does not qualify, should look first at minority coaches right now. There’s a LOT of untapped head coaching talent.

  56. Sorry Florio, I’ve been a fan for years, but you’re way off on this one. Todd Bowles is the 4th black head coach of the Bucs. No other team has had more than two. Bruce Arians put together the most diverse coaching staff in the league. If the Bucs violated the Rooney Rule by hiring a minority head coach I can think of no better example of the rule’s shortcomings.

  57. If Jones wanted to hire Payton he should just hire Payton the same way Tampa Tampa wanted Bowles and hired Bowles.

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