Holmgren hiring not in violation of Rooney Rule

Though questions have been raised about whether the Cleveland Browns disregarded the NFL’s Rooney Rule, Mike Holmgren’s hiring as team president does not violate the league’s policy.

Representatives of the Fritz Pollard Alliance reached out to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday night regarding Cleveland’s move and asked the commissioner to examine exactly how much control the former Super Bowl-winning coach will have on the team.

Holmgren oversaw personnel when he initially joined the Seahawks in 1999.
(Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire)

The rule specifies that teams must interview at least one minority candidate for a head coach or general manager-type position. The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which fought hard for the policy, was told by Goodell that Holmgren’s hiring does not fall under the rule because he is being named as someone above football operations.

In other words, Holmgren may hire a general manager or even a coach, but his day-to-day responsibilities will not involve personnel matters such as the NFL draft or free agency. Instead, he’ll oversee business matters like ticketing and marketing along the lines of Dick Cass with the Baltimore Ravens, Tod Leiweke of the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers’ Mark Murphy.

“We discussed it with the commissioner and his position is, as president, it’s all right for Cleveland to hire Holmgren without talking to a minority candidate,” said John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance. “We only asked the commissioner to make sure that’s the case. It can’t be like the Miami situation with [Bill] Parcells, where he’s the vice president of football operations, but everybody knows he runs everything day-to-day.

“If Holmgren is there to hire a general manager, fine. Our position is we’d like them to then interview someone like Reggie McKenzie, Sheldon White, Marc Ross or [James Harris] for that job.”

McKenzie, White, Ross and Harris are all either current or former NFL personnel executives.

The upshot of the discussion is that the Fritz Pollard Alliance doesn’t want teams to get in the habit of using titles to get around the Rooney Rule.

“That’s our concern. This is a rule that the owners adopted 32-0. We want them to follow a rule they unanimously agreed to. That’s all,” Wooten said.

Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Dec 22, 2009