Redskins have complied with Rooney Rule, clearing path to replace Jim Zorn

Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray, left, had multiple interviews for Washington's head coaching job.
Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray, left, had multiple interviews for Washington's head coaching job. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

As Coach Jim Zorn prepares for the final game of the regular season, the Washington Redskins have already cleared a major hurdle that would enable them to hire a new head coach. The team has complied with the NFL's Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior front-office positions, according to John Wooten, president of the group charged with monitoring diversity hiring in the league.

Wooten said Monday that Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray told him that he has already interviewed for Zorn's job, and that his organization, the Fritz Pollard Alliance, is satisfied that the team is considering him as its next head coach.

"They have done what we look for in an interview, therefore, they have satisfied the Rooney Rule," Wooten said in a telephone interview. The rule, which was established in 2003, is named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, chairman of the league's diversity committee.

Now that the Fritz Pollard Alliance feels the Redskins have complied with the rule, the Redskins are free to hire a new head coach at any time.

The team plays its final game Sunday at San Diego and speculation has grown that Zorn could be fired and former Denver coach Mike Shanahan could be introduced as the team's next head coach as early as next week.

Wooten said he spoke with Gray personally, and the Redskins' assistant coach said he had a "couple of different interviews" with team owner Daniel Snyder and that "other people were present."

Wooten said Gray was interviewed several weeks ago, when Vinny Cerrato was still the team's executive vice president of football operations. Cerrato was replaced Dec. 17 with newly hired general manager Bruce Allen. Wooten said "the only thing I'm asking now -- and they may do this, they may not," is for Allen to also interview Gray.

Gray has declined to comment on several occasions, including early Monday morning, following the Redskins' loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He said at that time he'd address reporters Monday afternoon at Redskins Park, but a team spokesman later said Gray would not be made available until Thursday, his regularly scheduled weekly session with reporters.

According to several people within the Redskins organization, Gray has denied to coaches and staff members that he interviewed for Zorn's job.

Redskins and NFL officials declined to comment for this story.

"We are not going to comment on the application of the Rooney Rule to a head coaching position that is not vacant," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail.

Wooten said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asked him to look into Gray's candidacy and the Redskins' process. He said Gray confirmed that he interviewed. Wooten said he had not spoken with Snyder.

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