Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Friday Rant (Special Tuesday Edition): "Rooney Rule" Offensive to All

The Seattle Seahawks fired head coach Jim Mora last week. One day later, they agreed as an organization that they wanted to hire Pete Carroll away from USC to take over for Mora. There was just one problem: the Seahawks hadn't interviewed a minority candidate to comply with the "Rooney Rule," and set themselves off into scramble mode to find a minority candidate to interview.

The organization reached out to Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, apparently before even settling on Carroll, and Frazier apparently initially said no. However, after receiving assurances from the Seahawks that Carroll had not yet been guaranteed full control of the Seahawks, Frazier changed his mind and agreed to meet with Seattle officials last Saturday. It was also reported that the Seahawks had already promised full control to Carroll before the Frazier interview, and the Seahawks hired Carroll anyway.

The "Rooney Rule" is the namesake of Pittsburgh Steelers' owner Dan Rooney, who realized that minorities were under-represented in the NFL coaching ranks. The rule was instituted league-wide in 2003 and requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for all head coaching and senior football operations positions.

While there are exceptions (i.e. assistants with successor language in their contracts to take over for a head coach; minority assistants elevated to head coaching positions), the rule is often times no more than a "dog-and-pony-show" to parade in a minority candidate just to make things look good.

In the Seahawks' case, it's offensive to Frazier to have him come in for an interview and, despite assurances that a candidate has not already been hired, go through the motions with him. Frazier is an up-and-coming assistant who is currently running a successful defense for a playoff team. He will get plenty of head coaching consideration on his own merits - as he rightly should. There is little doubt in many football evaluators' minds that Frazier will be a head coach very soon. However, it won't be in Seattle in 2010, and everyone knows it.

On the other hand, the Seahawks made a coaching change because they clearly wanted to go another direction. They wanted to hire Carroll from the outset. They pursued him, negotiated with him, and ultimately hired him - outside the "Rooney Rule" standards. It's not like Carroll is devoid of qualifications for the job. He was an NFL head coach for four seasons in the 1990s before launching on a supremely-successful tenure with the USC Trojans in 2001. While at USC, Carroll won 97 of 116 games, captured two national championships, and won seven of nine bowl games. The Seahawks determined Carroll was the best man for their job, as it was their prerogative.

I don't want this to turn into an anti-affirmative action rant. The Rooney Rule was adopted to give more opportunities to minority coaching candidates, and the spirit of this is fine. However, bringing in someone to comply with the rule when an organization has absolutely no intention of hiring the minority candidate undermines the spirit of the rule and is nothing but offensive to all. It's another example of an initiative with good intentions which ends up being nothing more than window-dressing.

Frazier certainly deserved better, and the Seahawks deserved to hire whomever they wanted without going into an act.

1 comment:

  1. The irony here is that Frazier will end up having a more successful NFL coaching career. It will be tougher for Carroll to succeed in the NFL where he has to work with a salary cap as opposed to his college strategy of providing "incentives" to recruits. This guy is a sleaze that is bailing out at USC before the sh*t hits the fan (a la John Calipari).