NFL Notebook

Diversity Group 'Happy' With Coach Hiring Cycle

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 2, 2008

PHOENIX, Feb. 1 -- Officials with the diversity group that has worked with the NFL to improve minority hiring said they're pleased with this year's hiring cycle for coaches, even though it might not result in minority candidates being hired for head coaching jobs.

The Washington Redskins are the only NFL team with a head coaching vacancy at the moment. Three other teams -- the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons -- filled head coaching vacancies in recent weeks without a minority coach being hired.

If there's not a minority head coach hired during this hiring cycle, it would be the first time that's happened in the six hiring cycles since the NFL imposed a rule that each team with a head coaching opening must interview at least one minority candidate. That rule widely is known as the Rooney Rule for Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, the chairman of the league's workplace diversity committee.

Even so, Washington lawyer Cyrus Mehri said this week he's pleased with the hiring cycle because each team with a head coaching vacancy complied with the interviewing rule, he said. Mehri serves as counsel for the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the group formed to promote diversity in hiring at all levels of the NFL.

Mehri cited the Indianapolis Colts' naming of assistant coach Jim Caldwell to succeed Tony Dungy as the team's head coach when Dungy retires, and the positive feedback given after the head coaching interviews done by Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

Mehri also endorsed Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks for the Redskins' head coaching vacancy. Meeks is the only minority candidate known to have interviewed with the Redskins. Meeks, like Caldwell and Frazier, is black.

"Jim Caldwell very likely would have been the head coach of the Falcons or one of the other organizations that had an opening, but the Colts wanted to keep him, and they contractually arranged for him to be the successor to Tony Dungy," Mehri said. "Leslie Frazier did extremely well. Bill Parcells [the Dolphins' recently hired front-office chief] told him personally that he's ready to be a head coach."

Mehri said the Fritz Pollard Alliance was disappointed San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Mike Singletary was not considered for any head coaching jobs this offseason but otherwise felt minority candidates received fair consideration.

"It's about the process," Mehri said. "We were very happy about the process this year. For every single opening, there was a serious process with serious minority candidates considered. The only thing we would have liked to see was for Mike Singletary to be involved in a few situations. But we've always focused on the process. That's why we applaud [Redskins owner] Dan Snyder, no matter what happens with the Redskins, and we have a bigger picture than just the head coaches."

Mariucci Mum

Former San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci continued his work for the NFL Network and remained mum about his candidacy for the Washington Redskins' vacant head coaching job.

"I'm just talking about the Super Bowl this week," Mariucci said. . . .

Injured Giants defensive end Adrian Awasom was arrested here early Friday on suspicion of drunk driving. Awasom's vehicle reportedly was stopped around 3 a.m. on a Phoenix interstate. Blood test results were not yet available.

A Giants spokesman told the Associated Press that Awasom, who's been on the injured reserve list since September, was sent home by the team. . . .

The NFL announced the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers will play Oct. 26 at Wembley Stadium in London. It will be the second straight season in which the NFL plays a regular season game in London. . . .

The Buffalo Bills officially announced they will play one regular season home game in Toronto in each of the next five seasons.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company