Thursday, December 31, 2009

How To Kill the Rooney Rule - Part Two

If I interviewed this Cheeto could I count it?

No one was expecting the transition from Vinny Cerrato to Bruce Allen, it caught everyone by surprise. In the excited aftermath of the team hiring its first ever general manager under owner Dan Snyder details of how the team fulfilled the Rooney Rule were vague. Then we found out. The process is now repeating itself for the head coach, and the Rooney Rule is reduced to irrelevance. Curly R's two part series on the Rooney Rule's death at the hands of Dan Snyder continues.

Part One: The General Manager
Part Two: The Head Coach
Part Three: The Collateral Damage


How is this for a headline, New York Times style:

Rendered Moot
Pre-emptive interviews violate original intent

It seems a little over the top, but that is really what has happened here in a practical sense. Thanks to Dan Snyder we have an established precedent that pre emptive interviews for qualifying positions can be conducted prior to the position in question being open.

That these interviews can happen in secret or behind the scenes reduces the public pressure element of intent in the Rooney Rule; it was designed to force each and every team to include minorities in the staffing process so let me ask you this question:

If those minority candidates can be interviewed in secret before positions are open to ensure what some would call smooth transitions and others would call box checking and still others would call due diligence, if there is no public concurrent accounting of the candidates and interviews, does this push those candidates to the back of the bus?

I think it does. It has always been Curly R's position that the Rooney Rule has the potential to encourage a shameful brand of tokenism when teams in an otherwise free market know exactly what candidate they want to hire. I sympathize with Matt Millen, the original Rooney Rule violator in 2003 when he said he could not find a minority candidate to interview after asking five separate people. Reasonable people can disagree as to whether the Lions really tried to find someone, the fact is that they wanted Steve Mariucci whether Steve was white, black or purple.

That same offseason Cowboys owner Jerral W. Jones tried to reel in former Vikings coach Dennis Green for an interview that Dennis' friend and former Redskins offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye described as quote an act like [Jerral W. Jones] was in compliance [with the Rule] unquote.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. If there are no mechanisms for waivers of the Rule or justification for variation, if there is just one rule and it will be applied no matter how ludicrous the interview, AND top shelf candidates like Dennis Green see right through the veil of tokenism and refuse to interview, then what is an owner to do?

Answer, lobby like hell and manage down to the barest legal compliance. Which is what Dan Snyder has done, and in so doing has destroyed the intent of the the Rule, rendering it moot. Which is a good thing, even if that destruction was executed in a terrible manner with the all the wrong motivations.

As far as the public record tells us, the team, the league and the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the body that regulates the implementation of the Rooney Rule, worked to approve the pre emptive interviews of current Redskins director of professional personnel Morocco Brown for the general manager position, and of defensive coordinator Greg Blache and secondary coach Jerry Gray for the head coach position.

The FPA approved of these interviews, believing the team's sincerity in offering these interviews. There appears to be plausible deniability all along the way. The team, whether Dan Snyder personally is irrelevant, spoke with the league, the league, in the form of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, asked FPA chairman John Wooten to look into Jerry Gray as a candidate, determine whether Jerry qualified in the eyes of the Rule, and whether the Redskins' process could be considered compliant.

Wooten validated it all.

Then the NFL, after ostensibly initiating the discussion with the FPA, beyond some hilarious double speak refused to comment further (op. cit.), the NFL's own story on Jerry Gray's interview confirmation is primarily made up of an Associated Press report, they refused to go on record with the internals of the story, even though the league itself was crucial to the process of validating a pre emptive interview.

For the team's part, Dan Snyder and his people have plausible deniability as well (ibid.), they never had direct contact and therefore influence over the FPA decision to validate the process, so Dan's hands are clean in all this.

And so that's it. Find a guy that meets the minimum requirement, give him a pre emptive interview in secret before the job is open, get it rubber stamped and you are done, fire your old guy and hire your new guy, stay on schedule with good PR and never be accountable in public for promoting minority hiring or for violating the Rule. The Fritz Pollard Alliance itself, whether intentionally or by accident, has just rendered the rule completely irrelevant.

Except that is not it, there is human toll in this: Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray. Curly R's How To Kill the Rooney Rule concludes tomorrow with Part Three, The Collateral Damage.

Dan Snyder: Uncredited image from here via here.