Problem is, last offseason was not the first time questions have been raised about whether clubs had met the letter — and the spirit — of the Rooney Rule. In the first year of the rule, Goodell’s predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, fined former Detroit Lions general manager Matt Millen $200,000 for “failing to discharge his duties” under the requirement.
It seemed more than enough anecdotal evidence existed for Goodell to at least probe how the Redskins and Seahawks reached their decisions. Instead, he punted.
So much progress has been made, though, that there was an argument Goodell would have risked offending owners, who could push to eliminate the rule, if he fined the Seahawks and Redskins.
An honor code is supposed to exist among the commissioner’s office, the Fritz Pollard Alliance and teams. The expectation is that minority candidates will receive legitimate consideration. Taking people at their word, though, has not always worked.
If teams were required to transcribe their interviews and make them available to the commissioner’s office and the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the people in charge of compliance would know for a fact that interviews occurred and could judge for themselves whether they were sufficient.
Minorities who have been granted interviews likely are reluctant to criticize teams, even if they had bad experiences, for fear of being denied future opportunities. Why not put it all on paper to be reviewed by the appropriate people?
“That’s a very interesting proposal,” Duru said. “A lot of people have spent time examining the rule and ways to strengthen it, and I don’t think anyone has come up with that one.”
There are eight minority head coaches and five minority general managers — the most in NFL history. The NFL, however, has 32 teams, and 78 percent of its players are African American. Obviously, the Rooney Rule has not completely leveled the field in the NFL.
There are long-standing societal factors that have contributed to minorities being historically underrepresented in decision-making roles, and change usually occurs slowly. But some forward-thinking people took a significant step in pushing for creation of the Rooney Rule. Now it’s time to give it more teeth.