The decision of the Colts to make Jeff Saturday the interim head coach raises an important question. In going outside the current coaching staff, do the Colts have to comply with the Rooney Rule?
According to the NFL, Rooney Rule compliance is not required for interim hires.
“The rule does not apply to an interim head coach during the season,” Chief NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email. “It does apply after the conclusion of the team’s season. The club would have to fulfill the rule before hiring a full-time coach.”
In other words, Colts owner Jim Irsay can hire Saturday to handle the rest of the season. However, Saturday can’t be given the permanent job without a full-blown search that complies with the rule.
Whether that should or shouldn’t be the rule is a different issue. It’s a potentially powerful loophole, which could be used by a team to get a head start on hiring a coveted head coach who is not under contract with another team. If that would ever happen, however, the team may have a hard time persuading minority candidates to interview for the job, once the season ends.
Regardless of the application of the Rooney Rule, it’s an affront to the members of the current coaching staff to not pick one of them to finish the job, and to entrust the position to someone with no experience at all as a college or pro football coach. It’s one of the issues Saturday will have to navigate when he meets for the first time with his new staff.