Dungy: Spirit of ‘Rooney Rule’ being violated

Recent minority interviews for NFL coaching jobs in Washington and

Seattle under the Rooney Rule have raised questions whether the

spirit of the rule has been violated.

Former Colts coach Tony Dungy wonders about the process used

by the Redskins, who interviewed assistant coach Jerry Gray for the

head coaching position last month even though Jim Zorn still held

the job.

The Seahawks met with Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie

Frazier on Saturday amid reports that Southern California coach

Pete Carroll would be hired regardless of how impressive Frazier

was.

“That is not what the Rooney Rule is supposed to be, (that)

you make up your mind and then interview a candidate for it anyway

just to satisfy the rule,” said Dungy, who retired from coaching

last year and now is an analyst on NBC’s “Football Night in

America” show.

“If the Jerry Gray situation is the way it has been described

as happening, I don’t think it was fair. I don’t think I would ever

interview for a job if my boss was not out of the job. I don’t

blame Jerry; it’s the position he was put in, if it happened that

way.”

Yet Dungy encourages all candidates to interview – under the

proper procedures.

“The idea of the rule is to slow down the process and get

teams to do their homework and investigate a lot of candidates, not

just minority candidates,” he said. “You went through the process,

and in doing that sometimes you uncover people.”

That’s what happened when the Steelers hired Mike Tomlin over

assistants Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm in 2007. Dungy believes

Frazier’s numerous interviews – the Rams, Broncos, Lions, Dolphins,

Falcons have spoken to him in past years, and he remains among the

front-runners for the Buffalo position – will pay off, too.

“Even in cases where you don’t get the job, I know Leslie

interviewed with the Dolphins and know Bill Parcells came away

impressed and told other people how impressed he was, and he is a

sharp guy and that helps,” Dungy said. “That goes a ways in

promoting that diversity.”

The Vikings declined to make Frazier available for comment

Sunday. In the past, he has said he supports the Rooney Rule

process, which was introduced after the 2002 season and became

mandatory a year later.

On Saturday, commissioner Roger Goodell said the Redskins and

Seahawks had complied with the Rooney Rule in their coaching

searches. League spokesman Greg Aiello added on Sunday:

“The rule has been effective, teams are complying, and it has

produced its intended positive results. Before the Rooney Rule,

interviews with minority head coaching and GM candidates that are

conducted now might never have taken place. Since the Rooney Rule,

there has been an exceptional increase in the number of minority

coaches who have had interviews, and there are far more minority

coaches in the NFL, including head coaches, than in years past.”

Compliance with the Rooney Rule is overseen by the Fritz

Pollard Alliance. Its chairman, John Wooten, played 10 seasons

(1959-68) in the NFL as a guard – back when there were no minority

head coaches.

Wooten can’t understand recent criticism of the system,

noting that the Seahawks and Carroll himself assured him they had

no deal at the time Frazier was interviewed. Wooten also believes

the Redskins handled things properly with Gray.

“Do we have to fight and safeguard against shenanigans?”

Wooten said. “Yes. People try to play as close to the line as they

can. We say to our guys, ‘Don’t let people use you. We all know a

legitimate interview.’

“I told Jerry that Dan Snyder went about it the right way. He

called the commissioner and the commissioner called me. The thing

that bothered me with Jerry is he didn’t stand up and say, ‘Dan

Snyder came to me and asked me would I be interested in being coach

of the Redskins?’ He’s the owner and knows what will happen with

his team.”