After publicly signing off on the Oakland Raiders satisfying the Rooney Rule before hiring Jon Gruden, now the NFL isn’t so sure.
The NFL is officially looking into whether the Raiders violated the Rooney Rule, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The rule states that teams must interview minority candidates for head coach and general manager openings. The Fritz Pollard Alliance called for the NFL to investigate whether the Raiders violated the rule after owner Mark Davis indicated he and Gruden met on Christmas Eve, a week before the season ended, and Davis felt Gruden was “all in” on being the Raiders coach then. The Raiders interviews with tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin came well after that Christmas Eve meeting.
While the Raiders have been criticized for turning the Rooney Rule into a farce, you have to wonder about the NFL’s motivation here too. At no point did any sane person believe that Johnson or Martin had a shot at getting the Raiders’ job over Gruden. It was reported before Jack Del Rio was fired that the Raiders were after Gruden. When the NFL said last week that the Raiders had satisfied the rule, they knew Oakland never intended to hire anyone but Gruden. Everyone did. To say otherwise would be disingenuous. The NFL made a decision, saw criticism of the Raiders over what happened, and now is trying to walk it back.
The Raiders were in a no-win spot. They wanted to hire Gruden, a Super Bowl champion and a desirable candidate for his entire nine-year run at ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Before firing Del Rio, they wanted to get a read on if Gruden would leave a cushy job in the booth to coach the Raiders. It makes sense that they wanted to figure out if Gruden was attainable before firing the coach who led them to the playoffs in 2016. There was no way for the Raiders to go about hiring Gruden and also satisfy the Rooney Rule to the spirit for which it was intended. Johnson or Martin wasn’t going to beat out Gruden. Nobody was. Gruden was the top candidate, if he was available. He’s obviously qualified. Once the Raiders found out that he was available, especially considering they’d pay him $100 million over 10 years, there was no other reasonable conclusion.
That has led to a longer discussion about the Rooney Rule. The NFL, which could not have been too shocked by anything it has heard since they said the Raiders satisfied the Rooney Rule, will look into it. Raiders owner Mark Davis might get punished. The Detroit Lions got fined $200,000 when it didn’t interview a minority before hiring Steve Mariucci as coach in 2003. There are situations in which the Rooney Rule will look like a joke. This is one of those situations. The Raiders will probably pay a price for it.
The Raiders were stuck, to a degree. Davis will probably regret saying that he met with Gruden on Christmas Eve, even though the shocked reports about that meeting fail to acknowledge that there were reports before Week 17 that the Raiders were pursuing Gruden, and those weren’t just lucky guesses. But the NFL saw the criticism, and now it will probably blame the Raiders after the league signed off on all of it.
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