The head of the diversity group that works closely with the NFL on its hiring practices said Tuesday he’s confident that the Oakland Raiders will comply with the sport’s minority interviewing rule in their head coaching search, and he believes it is possible they already have done so.
John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, said he does not know for certain if the Raiders are in compliance with the Rooney Rule, which is named for late Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney and requires each NFL team with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least one minority candidate.
The Raiders appear intent upon hiring Jon Gruden, the former NFL coach who now is the analyst for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” broadcasts. Wooten said he is placing his confidence in Raiders owner Mark Davis and General Manager Reggie McKenzie to comply.
“I know Reggie and I know Mark Davis well enough to know that they know the process,” Wooten said by phone. “I would not be surprised if they already talked to two or three people who are out of the league and they didn’t have to report it to the league before they started to move forward in the process with Jon Gruden.”
According to a person familiar with the deliberations, the Raiders are confident they can complete a deal with Gruden, who formerly coached the Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Raiders fired Jack Del Rio as their coach Sunday. ESPN reported Saturday that the Raiders would pursue Gruden, perhaps with an offer that would include an ownership stake in the franchise.
“This situation is a little different because Gruden was out of the league,” Wooten said Tuesday. “They could have been talking to him without having to worry about tampering or anything like that. They could have been talking to other coaches who were out of the league, too. The Rooney Rule primarily has to do with people that are in the league. They could have talked to [minority] candidates who were out of the league, and they wouldn’t have to report that to the league at that time. I’m relying on the integrity of Reggie and Mark Davis to have done that.”
Wooten said he would not necessarily advise a minority candidate against interviewing with the Raiders now, even with the widespread belief that the job will go to Gruden. There is value to a candidate to go through the interviewing process, Wooten said.
“A lot of it has to do with the individual people,” Wooten said. “The people who we deal with are qualified to be head coaches, and you don’t hurt yourself to take the interview and go through the process. That happened with Anthony Lynn a few years ago. The question was whether he should interview with the Jets. It helps you with the knowledge of how the interview works. It helps us because we can go back and critique how the interview went, and work on your strengths and weaknesses for the next time. In that sense, it works.
“It has to do with the people you’re interviewing. The sham interview is when you interview someone that you know you’re not going to hire, and they’re not someone who’s going to be a head coach. The interview process is a very good process, and it helps you to go through it.”
The head coaching candidates recommended to the league and to the teams by the Fritz Pollard alliance for this hiring cycle include defensive coordinators Steve Wilks of Carolina, Teryl Austin of Detroit, Kris Richard of Seattle and George Edwards of Minnesota, and offensive coordinators Harold Goodwin of Arizona and Terry Robiskie of Tennessee.
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