The NFL said the Oakland Raiders had complied with the Rooney Rule before hiring Jon Gruden, then the league investigated again. And on second look, the Raiders are in the clear.
The Raiders complied with the Rooney Rule, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport. There won’t be any punishment to the Raiders. That doesn’t mean there won’t be criticism of the team or questions about if the rule is being followed as it was intended.
The Rooney Rule states teams must interview a minority candidate for any head coach or general manager opening. The Raiders interviewed former tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin. The NFL said they had satisfied the rule, then the Raiders hired Jon Gruden as everyone expected. A problem came when owner Mark Davis admitted he’d spoken with Gruden about the job on Christmas Eve, a couple weeks before he was hired. It made the Johnson and Martin interviews look like shams. The NFL said it would investigate.
The problem is the Raiders had to satisfy the rule, but there was no chance they were going to hire anyone but Gruden. Any interview would have been a sham. No matter what Johnson or Martin said, the Raiders weren’t going to change their minds and not hire a coach they thought was worth a 10-year, $100 million contract. And it’s not like Gruden isn’t qualified. He has a Super Bowl ring. The Raiders were going to hire Gruden no matter what, and that’s perfectly reasonable. They also had to satisfy the Rooney Rule. It’s hard to see any way the Raiders could have complied with the Rooney Rule to the spirit of the rule.
The NFL is often reactionary when it comes to punishments, and it seemed like the Raiders would pay the price for the public criticism when the NFL opened up an investigation. But the NFL, in Friday news dump fashion, decided the Raiders were in the clear. It won’t stop the concern about whether the Rooney Rule is working as intended.
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