March 30, 2012 at 12:26pm by Scott • 8 Comments »
Herm Edwards stirred up a little controversy yesterday when he said the Saints were making a “mockery of the Rooney Rule” by announcing that they were interested in having Bill Parcells replace Sean Payton for one year and not interviewing a minority candidate for the spot. It’s really not that bold of a statement; other NFL people say much worse every day on Twitter. But of course since it’s racial in nature, everyone has to take sides and spout their meaningless opinions on the matter. And the message boards and comment sections are overflowing with half-cocked bullshit today. Normally I avoid it all since the only people I’m racist against are leprechauns — God, I hate those little green bastards. But I’m in the mood for a little pre-Spring Break controversy and actually had this conversation a couple weeks ago, so why not.
Most of the comments today are about how the Rooney Rule is useless and sucks and isn’t fair and doesn’t help. They say that owners should just be allowed to hire the person they most want for the job. And in the magic fairyland where these people must be from, I’m sure everything is totally fair to everyone and always has been. In this country, however, not so much. From when Fritz Pollard coached the Hammond Pros in 1925 until Art Shell was hired by the Raiders in 1989, there were no black coaches in the NFL. Zero. If owners just hired the best men for the job on their own, what these people are saying is that for an unbroken streak of 65 years, the best man for every single head coaching position was always white. And some of those guys, as their records prove, were total dog shit. But somehow they were still better than any black coach that could have been hired. Aren’t we whiteys amazing?!
After Shell was hired, it seemed like a small bit of the stigma was lifted and black coaches started to trickle in. No floodgates were opened, but they let the faucet drip a little. From 1989 through 2002, there were five black head coaches in the NFL: Shell, Denny Green, Ray Rhodes, Tony Dungy and Edwards himself. The Rooney Rule, which requires an owner to interview at least one minority candidate for a head coaching vacancy, was enacted in 2003. Since then, there have been ten head coaching positions filled by a black man (Romeo Crennel twice) along with seven appointments as an interim head coach (two of which became permanent). In the 78 years from Pollard to the Rooney Rule, there were five black head coaches. In the 10 years since the Rooney Rule, there have been 15. That’s real progress — those are the floodgates we were looking for. And it’s important to keep in mind that owners are not required to hire a black head coach — only to interview one black candidate. No owner is going to hire someone for such an important position just for the sake of racial equality. They’re going to hire who they think is the best man for the job because these are billion dollar businesses that they are being put in charge of.
Some argue that it’s undignified to make a black coach take an interview that is only being given in order to fulfill the rule. But that rule is requiring black coaches to get face time in front of high-level decision makers in the NFL. That’s valuable, even if the owner already knows the white guy he wants to hire. Maybe the black coach impresses the owner and will consider him for another position. Maybe if the coach he’s already planning to hire doesn’t work out, the impressive black coach already has a leg up on the competition for his replacement. Or maybe other owners compare notes on who they like and the owner brags about how well this man came across on his Rooney Rule interview. Here’s the point: It can’t hurt. If I’m being totally honest, I think most owners would hire the best man for the job regardless of race on their own now. I really don’t think there are any more George Preston Marshalls left in the league, or at least none who would put their prejudices above the welfare of their team. So the Rooney Rule may have served its purpose and be a little obsolete now. But I’m also not going to put up a big fuss to remove the rule yet, either. After 65 years of being blacklisted (no pun) from head coaching positions, I think black coaches have a little more extra consideration coming their way if they want it. Ask me again in ten years.
All that said, the Payton situation is completely new and might require a different strategy. Payton isn’t fired, he’s suspended. He is still the head coach and will take his position back at the end of the season. To me this is more like hiring an assistant coach, which wouldn’t be subject to any rule. I will now take this moment to admit that I may be biased here because I really love Parcells and want to see him on the sidelines one more time. Which is why I’m not the guy in charge of enforcing the Rooney Rule. As long as the coach was fun to watch on the sidelines and gave good press conferences, I’d let him in. Feel free to leave whatever you want in the comments as long as it won’t get me arrested on some kind of hate crime charge.