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Raiders can hold up Colts’ Josh McDaniels saga as proof head coach hires aren’t done deal until official

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A perfect example of why the Rooney Rule is important even when a coach appears to be a lock.

Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Seven NFL teams this offseason were looking for a new head coach. Six of them got their man. And if I had asked you which team would have been frozen out, I doubt many of you would have said the Colts.

The reason being because the Colts had their sights set squarely on hiring Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels. All they needed to do was wait until after the Super Bowl to hire him.

Colts GM Chris Ballard even scheduled the press conference. It was done. Official. All that was left was taking media questions and posing for pictures, right? Nope.

McDaniels backed out at the last minute, opting to remain with the Patriots.

With the press conference already scheduled, Ballard took the podium and fielded questions from the media.

“We’d agreed to contract terms, we had an agreement in place, we followed all the rules, did everything right,” said Ballard.

He was pretty pissed it all fell apart, saying “The rivalry is back on!” Though, that Colts/Patriots rivalry hasn’t really existed for some time now.

What a debacle.

Can you imagine if that happened with the Raiders and Jon Gruden? It could have happened. Even though the Raiders wisely waited until Gruden was done with his ESPN season to announce the press conference.

My first thought in all this was of the Rooney Rule controversy.

There were some who mentioned the McDaniels hire in Indianapolis as proof of other teams zeroing in on a head coach just as the Raiders did with Gruden and yet they weren’t judged as harshly as the Raiders. That alone isn’t proof the league and/or the media is out to get the Raiders.

The issue was based on the fact that Mark Davis admitted just after the Gruden introductory press conference that Gruden had agreed to take the job on Christmas Eve, more than a week before the season had even ended. That admission upset the Fritz Pollard Alliance who said it was proof there was no way the Raiders could have fulfilled the Rooney Rule stipulations.

They went through the motions with the Rooney Rule just as the Raiders did when they interviewed Bobby Johnson and USC OC Tee Martin. And had Gruden pulled a McDaniels and backed out at the last minute, Johnson and Martin having interviewed would figure to put them squarely among the candidates for the job.

Chris Ballard sure as shit thought he had an iron clad agreement with McDaniels. They were already hiring a staff, for crying out loud. He too went through the motions interviewing minority candidates to comply with the Rooney Rule, all the while figuring he already had his guy. Now those minority interviews mean a whole lot more.

I understand what the Fritz Pollard Alliance and many in the media are upset about. The spirit of the rule is often lost in these supposed interview processes. But this situation with the Colts and McDaniels tells you that even when the owner and/or GM think something is 100% a done deal, as Mark Davis did with Gruden, nothing is done until the pen hits the paper (and even then sometimes things can change).