The concerns the Raiders violated the Rooney Rule with regard to how they went about hiring Jon Gruden aren’t going away. Initially it was just some grumblings that they didn’t honor the spirit of the rule, but it’s become more than that.
The concern was raised Wednesday by the Fritz Pollard Alliance after Mark Davis said he was sure Jon Gruden was on board before he had fired Jack Del Rio. In fact, Davis said he know Gruden would be the next head coach before they had even played their 14th game of the season.
That means the position was never vacant and it also means they couldn’t have fulfilled the Rooney Rule.
Davis’s words prompted the Fritz Pollard Alliance to request the NFL investigate whether Davis and the Raiders violated the Rooney Rule.
“We are deeply concerned by reports that the Oakland Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, came to an agreement with Jon Gruden about him becoming the Raiders’ next head coach before interviewing any candidates of color,” the group said in a statement. “If so, the Club violated the Rooney Rule, which was instituted by the NFL in 2003 and requires teams to interview at least one candidate of color for open head coaching and general manager positions.”
The NFL has responded in a statement saying they are “will look into it”. Though it’s important to note they also said there is no rule that prevents a team from agreeing to terms in principle with a new coach before firing the last coach. That combined with the interviews of Bobby Johnson and Tee Martin and the team appears to have acted within the rules put forth.
You could argue the Raiders made a mockery of the process if you like. Even if you remove the fact that everyone knew Gruden was the guy from the jump. After all, Johnson was already on the team’s staff, and based on Martin -- whose name wasn’t made public until Reggie McKenzie was pressed — returning for an ‘actual’ interview for a spot on the staff appearing to show that was the plan all along.
It may not look great, but it looks like it’s still letter of the law. That may be enough for a team that has one of the few black NFL GM’s in Reggie McKenzie and an organization that has long been at the forefront of minority hires.
Some have suggested for these reasons perhaps the Raiders should opt to voluntarily pay the $250K fine or perhaps donate to charity. But it’s hard to imagine there is any way the Raiders could be subject to a league fine.