The Oakland Raiders are facing questions about whether they may have violated the Rooney Rule when they hired Jon Gruden as coach.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes diversity and equal opportunity in hires for coaching, the front office and scouting staffs of NFL teams, called Wednesday for the league to investigate the chronology of Gruden’s hiring.
Fritz Pollard Alliance counsels Cyrus Mehri and N. Jeremi Duru expressed concern that Raiders owner Mark Davis may have struck a deal with Gruden before the team interviewed any minority candidates as required by the league.
The Raiders and the NFL had no immediate comment Wednesday night.
Davis said Tuesday at the news conference introducing Gruden that he had been trying to make the move for six years and finally believed it would happen after a meeting in Philadelphia on Christmas Eve.
“I felt pretty confident that he was all-in,” Davis said. “And that’s the term that we were using in our discussions and everything, ‘Are you all-in?’ And I never wavered from all-in. And this time he didn’t waver, either.”
Davis fired Jack Del Rio a week later and the team officially hired Gruden on Jan. 6. Davis also said he wouldn’t have fired Del Rio if he didn’t believe Gruden would take the job.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said he interviewed Raiders tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin before Gruden was hired.
“If the facts end the way they seem to be right now, then I have full confidence the league will take appropriate action because they care about the Rooney Rule being a success as well,” Mehri told ESPN. “The facts matter. Fairness matters. Fairness means fairness to Mark Davis and having a fair process, but also fairness as far as guys being able to compete with an open process and not a closed process.”
Mehri acknowledged Al Davis, the Raiders’ principal owner and general manager until his death in 2011, was a pioneer in minority hiring. He made Tom Flores the first Latino head coach in NFL history and Art Shell the first African-American head coach in the modern era.
“I have always felt a team can have a front-runner and minority candidates can compete against a front-runner, and sometimes they get selected,” Mehri said. “But if there is a closed process and those minority candidates were going through the motions and had no idea there was already an agreement, that is not fair to them and it is not fair to the next guy coming up through the ranks.”
— Field Level Media