Today Roger Goodell took the podium for his annual state of the NFL address that featured the commish touching on everything from the league’s growing global presence on down to the price of Super Bow tickets. Naturally one of the unavoidable topics was the Rooney Rule and the NFL’s continued lack of minority hires in positions of influence.
The rule in question calls for teams to include minority candidates in the job searches for head coaches and various front office positions. As we all know the rule is largely a failure as it has yet to deliver the desired results.
Of course long before it was mandated that teams actually interview all qualified candidates Al Davis was doing just that.
Without a nudge from the commissioner Davis hired the first African-American and Latino head coaches in league history. He also appointed various coaches, front office personnel and scouts that fit the Rooney mandate before such a thing existed.
Even in his absence the Raiders continued the proud Davis tradition when Reggie McKenzie was hired as general manager last year. Of course McKenzie’s first order of business as an African-American GM was to fire Hue Jackson, an African-American head coach, but let’s not go down that path at the moment.
Instead let’s examine all the reasons why the Rooney Rule so badly needs the Al Davis touch.
For Davis it was never about doing things differently. His decisions were labeled as “maverick” in relation to what others were doing. They weren’t inherently “maverick” in their nature for the sake of being maverick. In other words Davis did what he felt was right and not what was groundbreaking. It just so happened hiring the likes of Amy Trask as pro football’s first woman CEO was a groundbreaking event. However the decision wasn’t made to shock the world so much as it was to hire the best candidate possible.
As we’ve learned more often than not teams simply find a minority candidate to interview by looking down the hall in their own offices. Rarely do teams go outside of their own organization to seek out minority candidates. So long as they sit down with someone that fits the bill then the rule is satisfied.
That is not the spirit of the rule nor will it do anything to change the good old boys network that dominates the NFL landscape.
For football to carry the social significance it does in this country yet to still be decades behind leagues such as the NBA in minority hiring is a sad reminder of how much more progress must be made.
What the rest of the league can learn from Al Davis is that when it comes to hiring the goal should be to cast a wide enough net to find the best candidates there are. Instead what we find is that teams already have their pecking order long before their searches begin. Thus the Rooney candidate is nothing more than a check on the list.
Davis was a pioneer unlike any other. As we move further way from the death of Davis we realize how far ahead of his time he was and still is. Simply put, the rest of the football world is still chasing and hopefully learning from Al Davis. Until the best candidates are given equal chance, including both minorities and non-minorities alike, nothing will change. Until the suits that comprise the NFL’s secret society are forced outside of their comfort zone nothing will change. Until the rest of the football world finally takes on the ways of Al Davis nothing will change.
The Rooney Rule is a good start but it is not nearly enough. It’s an ideal lacking the vision of Davis and it so desperately needs that special touch only Davis had.