Browns search raises Rooney Rule concerns

The news that Mike Holmgren has reportedly been offered a high-ranking position by the Cleveland Browns has led to some concern in league circles that the franchise will give only token respect to the league’s Rooney Rule on minority interview and hiring practices.

A Cleveland radio station reported Wednesday that the former Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers coach was offered the unspecified job of “football czar” with the Browns after interviewing with the team Monday and Tuesday. It was the second time that the two sides have talked about the job.

Holmgren spent 17 years with the Seahawks and Packers.
(Mark J. Rebilas/US Preswire)

“The Browns have not confirmed an offer to Mike Holmgren,” Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis wrote in an email Thursday. “The process is still ongoing.”

However, if the team offered Holmgren a job as director of football operations, John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, hopes the NFL takes action because the team has not fulfilled its requirement to interview a minority candidate to his knowledge.

Further, it would be the second straight year that the Browns had violated at least the spirit of the rule in Wooten’s mind. Last year, the Browns hired coach Eric Mangini after interviewing assistant coach Mel Tucker for the job. While Tucker is black, Wooten and others around the league said it was little more than a token effort by the Browns.

By contrast, Wooten said he was pleased with how the Washington Redskins handled their search for a general manager. Bruce Allen was hired Thursday shortly after Vinny Cerrato, the vice president of football operations, resigned.

The Redskins hired Allen, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders executive, after nearly two weeks of searching. The search process had started at least 10 days prior to that, according to sources. It included Redskins director of pro personnel Morocco Brown, who is black and was recommended by the Fritz Pollard Alliance.

While few complaints have been registered since the policy was implemented in 2003 and expanded to include senior positions in football operations in 2005, at least one front-office member has been reprimanded for violating the rule. Detroit Lions president Matt Millen was fined $200,000 for not interviewing any minority candidates before hiring coach Steve Mariucci in ’03.

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 Friday, Dec 18, 2009