WASHINGTON (WUSA) - We're all thinking it as we watch the Oakland Raiders’ courtship of Jon Gruden and their perceived disregard for the Rooney Rule, the NFL’s policy requiring teams to hold an interview with at least one minority candidate when filling a head coach or senior football operations job.
But consider the words of Amy Trask, who offers unique perspective as former CEO of the Raiders and now a football analyst for CBS.
“Be honest with your fans. Be honest with the public. Don’t insult our collective intelligence,” she said in a telephone conversation with USA TODAY Sports on Thursday. “Irrespective of if one thinks there should be a rule or whether the rule needs to be doctored or treated, there is the rule. So either comply with it in good faith, or state that you are not going to comply with it and are willing to accept whatever fine is levied on you for failing to comply. In other words, be honest, forthright and direct.”
We get it. In the eyes of Raiders ownership, Gruden is the best fit to be the next coach.
His familiarity with the franchise, strong track record with quarterbacks, Super Bowl ring and charisma all make him extremely attractive.
But the Raiders went about this all wrong.
They zeroed in on Gruden with a full-court press and started hammering out details before even firing Jack Del Rio — or before even considering any people of color for the position.
As of Thursday, USA TODAY Sports learned the Raiders had yet to request an interview with a single person of color, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter.
It remains to be seen if the Raiders plan to do so at all, or will simply pay a fine for violating the Rooney Rule.
Owner Mark Davis seems to have ignored the fact that his father, Al Davis, was a trailblazer on the diversity front. In 1979, Al Davis hired Tom Flores and eventually saw him become the first Hispanic head coach to win the Super Bowl (twice).
In 1983, Davis hired Trask, who went on to become CEO from 1997 to 2013.
In 1989, Al Davis made Art Shell the first African-American head coach in the NFL's modern era.
In 2012, the Raiders made Reggie McKenzie one of the few black general managers.
Still, the apparent decision to disregard the Rooney Rule in pursuit of Gruden is frustrating. It serves another reminder — possibly the strongest yet — that the rule has become a sham badly in need of an overhaul.
It’s well documented. The Rooney Rule has not had the anticipated long-term impact since its implementation in 2003.
The number of minorities holding head coach and coordinator positions hovers around the same figure every year.
Owners often throw in a token minority interview to comply with the rule, avoiding punishment from the league, and then hire their top guy.
And the current deterrent for violating the Rooney Rule isn’t significant enough.
In 2003, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue fined then-Lions president Matt Millen $200,000 for failing to interview a minority candidate before hiring Steve Mariucci as coach.
Owners were told that further violations would draw a $500,000 fine.
But, c’mon. These guys are billionaires, so $500,000 is chump change.
Two people familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports that the Raiders’ lack of compliance upset multiple ownership groups.
They requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
It’s expected that owners will discuss intensifying the penalty in the offseason to include the loss of a significant draft pick.
That would be a step in the right direction. Without accountability, there’s no hope for improvement.
The mindset of those responsible for hiring executives and coaches must change.
Opportunities for minority head coaches and even coordinators must increase.
Many teams want a hot-shot, offensive-minded head coach.
However, only two employ black offensive coordinators after the Packers fired Edgar Bennett.
And only two clubs have black quarterback coaches.
Also damaging: the fact that coaches get stereotyped.
Why are former running backs and wide receivers — two position that feature the largest number of African-Americans — only good for coaching their positional groups?
Why is it so rare for these men, who are just as knowledgeable and detail-oriented, to become offensive coordinators?
“Just like quarterback, OC and QB coach are considered ‘thinking man’ positions,” a former African-American player and current assistant told USA TODAY Sports.
He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions.
Blacks just aren’t typically trusted with those “thinking man” gigs. How crazy is this?
Sounds like I’m writing back in 1968 or '78, or even '88. Not 2018.
Head coaches have to do a better job of developing position coaches into coordinators.
One idea: Give those running back and wide receiver coaches a chance to call plays during portions of preseason games.
It all comes back to opportunity.
But let me make this clear: I don’t believe in token interviews or hires.
Don’t hire me because I’m black.
Hire me because I’m good at what I do.
And that’s exactly how minority coaches see it.
But they have to have a chance to sell themselves.
Multiple people with intimate knowledge of NFL hiring practices have told USA TODAY Sports there’s a dilemma among assistant coaches, who have received requests to interview for head coaching positions when it’s obvious they have no legitimate shot at landing the job.
Those insiders spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.
Black candidates wrestle with whether to go through potential sham interviews for the experience or to decline them all together.
Owners can eliminate that dilemma by committing to truly making their organizations places of equal opportunity.
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