The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which works with the NFL toward ensuring diversity in hiring practices, has asked the league to look into whether the Oakland Raiders truly complied with the Rooney Rule in its hiring of head coach Jon Gruden.
In a statement sent to media organizations, attorneys for the Alliance wrote, “We are deeply concerned by reports that the Oakland Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, came to an agreement with Jon Gruden about him becoming the Raiders’ next head coach before interviewing any candidates of color. If so, the Club violated the Rooney Rule, which was instituted by the NFL in 2003 and requires teams to interview at least one candidate of color for open head coaching and general manager positions.
“As soon as we learned of the reports, we formally requested that the NFL thoroughly investigate the matter to conclusively determine whether the Rooney Rule was violated — and if it was violated, to impose an appropriate punishment.”
While the head of the FPA, John Wooten, had previously said that it believed Oakland was in compliance with the rule because the Raiders told him they’d interviewed two minority candidates, it appears the timeline of how everything happened has brought the validity of those interviews into question.
Raiders owner Mark Davis indicated to reporters on Tuesday after the formal introductory press conference for Gruden that he felt Gruden was “all in” to return as coach on Christmas Eve. The two met in Philadelphia that night, before Gruden called the Raiders-Eagles game for ESPN.
Davis fired head coach Jack Del Rio a week later, after Oakland’s final regular-season game.
If, for all intents and purposes, Gruden was already in place as the next coach before the Raiders’ current coach had been fired, then any interviews – Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said he interviewed the team’s tight ends coach, Bobby Johnson, and University of Southern California offensive coordinator Tee Martin – done after that were merely window dressing.
If the NFL investigates and determines that the Raiders did not adhere to the Rooney Rule, the team is subject to a fine; in 2003, then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue fined Detroit Lions president Matt Millen $200,000 for failing to interview a minority candidate before hiring Steve Mariucci as coach (the Lions paid a far bigger price for hiring Millen in the first place, but we digress).
Under late owner Al Davis, the Raiders did have a tremendous record of hiring and promoting minority candidates, but there isn’t credit given for the past, and the rule is in place for all teams to follow in good faith.