Redskins' Jerry Gray botches chance to set record straight

By Tracee Hamilton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 1, 2010; D01

I have never understood why honesty is so often seen as the court of last resort in sports, and I guess I never will. If Tiger Woods had gotten in front of his problems the day after Thanksgiving, perhaps the greatest golfer in the world would still have a tournament bearing his name in 2010.

And if secondary coach Jerry Gray would just disclose whether he interviewed for the Redskins' head coaching non-vacancy, perhaps the latest distraction in the Redskins' season of distractions would go away.

Thursday was Gray's latest chance to set the record straight: Did he in fact interview for Jim Zorn's job while Jim Zorn still had it? The Fritz Pollard Alliance -- charged with enforcing the NFL's Rooney Rule, which guarantees minority candidates opportunities to interview for vacancies -- says he did, and gave the Redskins the go-ahead to fill the non-opening. So, perhaps as early as Monday, Mike Shanahan likely will be introduced as the Redskins' new coach.

Nothing Gray could say would change that outcome. Yet he still wouldn't address the question Thursday, his designated day to talk to the media. (There are a lot of people to whom I'd like to assign just one "talking day" a week, but Redskins players and coaches aren't among them.) Anyway, here's how it went at Redskins Park:

Did you talk to the Fritz Pollard Alliance?

"I appreciate the question, but I'm not going to comment on it right now."

If you're not going to comment, why?

"Again, that's a great question, but no comment."

Is there a point when you might comment?

"Maybe one of these days."

Are the reports out there inaccurate?

"Not going to comment, sorry."

You have to understand why this doesn't look good.

"Of course, I understand that. Again, right now, I know all those questions are great, but I'm not commenting on those right now."

The only question he would answer regarded his relationship with Zorn, which Gray says is still good.

"Coach Zorn and I have talked," he said. "I've answered that question in the past about me and Coach Zorn talking, and I think we have a good relationship. By the way, I did pick him up last Saturday and drove to the hotel like we always do every Saturday. So if the relationship was kind of bad, I think he would have told me, 'No, Jerry, don't come this week.' "

So what are we left to believe, beyond the fact that if Gray's account is accurate, Zorn really is the most patient man on the planet? If Gray didn't interview for the job, why doesn't he just say so? And if he did interview for the job, why doesn't he admit it? You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who believes he didn't at this point.

Instead, he "no comments" himself deeper and deeper into a hole.

Why does this matter? Well, first is the matter of Gray's future. He would like to be a head coach someday, and one assumes he would like to be employed next season. Zorn might still be his friend, but Zorn is probably not going to be in a position to give him a job in the near future. Wouldn't most people likely hesitate to give an assistant job to someone who interviewed for his boss's job behind his back? And if Gray remains with the Redskins, and all the other assistants are let go in the new regime, won't that look beyond suspicious?

Then there's the issue of the application of the Rooney Rule. John Wooten, the president of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, said his organization has no problem with an assistant coach interviewing for his boss's job while his boss is still in it. If that is the level to which a black assistant coach must stoop to get a job interview, then I would suggest that the Rooney Rule isn't working, that the Fritz Pollard Alliance isn't working and that the NFL should be ashamed of itself.

And why has the NFL ceded the responsibility of enforcing the rule to the Fritz Pollard Alliance in the first place? And if the two are going to share responsibility on this issue, shouldn't they speak with one voice? The NFL may have a problem with an assistant interviewing for his boss's job -- and heaven knows it should -- but we don't know for sure.

Spokesman Greg Aiello said earlier this week that the league wouldn't comment on the application of the Rooney Rule where there is no coaching vacancy. If the league won't comment on it, does that mean there even is an application of the Rooney Rule where there is no coaching vacancy? Which inmate, exactly, is running this asylum?

And finally, of course, there is the continuing embarrassment to this franchise, which had no business interviewing any Zorn assistant for his job. If you're going to make a joke of the spirit and intent of the Rooney Rule, at least spring for a plane ticket to bring in someone else to pretend to interview.

Unless, of course, Gray never interviewed for the job and this has all been a colossal misunderstanding. One of these days, maybe when he's out of work, perhaps Gray can explain this ridiculous series of events. But the clock is ticking.

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