Rooney Rule still looking like ‘Rooney Ruse’










“It’s duck season.”

“It’s rabbit season.”

“Duck season!”

“Rabbit season!”

Remember this cartoon debate? Well, both Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are wrong — it’s football coaches firing-hiring season.

Or Black coaches getting bypassed again season.

Even before it became official, the media de facto “search committee” already had filled out their next coach list for the Minnesota Vikings like a precocious child’s Christmas wish list. Two such lists include only four Black “top candidates,” with former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith listed twice. All four are Rooney Rule qualifiers — each NFL team must interview at least one Black candidate when a head-coaching vacancy occurs.

The Minnesota Vikings, who fired Leslie Frazier last week with a year left on his contract, most likely will do the league-mandated minimum and interview the one non-White candidate, then hire someone White as their next head coach.

Former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier

Frazier, who was fired after two and one-third seasons, didn’t deserve to be fired. It wasn’t his fault that he had to play a management-mandated poor quarterback and that his defense was one of the worst in team history — overall, the team just wasn’t that good.  Perhaps the individual who signed the players, GM Rick Spielman, should have gotten the Ziggy as well.

Unlike they did for his predecessor, the Vikings players, who openly lobbied for him after their season finale, didn’t quit on Frazier. “It obviously was a long season [the Vikings finished 5-10-1], but we all fought and stuck together. He [Frazier] did a great job coaching us,” special teams player Marcus Sherels told the MSR the day before Frazier was axed.

The first question we asked was if Frazier would be rehired again by an NFL club. The answer turns out to be yes — he was hired last week by Tampa Bay as defensive coordinator.

Last year, no Blacks filled any of the eight NFL coaching openings or seven general manager openings, a resounding blow against the league’s diversity and inclusion intentions that called into question the true effectiveness of the Rooney Rule. Four of the eight coaches fired last year later were rehired, one as a head coach, while the two fired Black coaches remain unemployed.

Smith, who was fired a year ago, got hired by Tampa Bay last week. Nonetheless, these numbers reaffirm my proposal to rename the Rooney Rule the Rooney Ruse.

A 2013 NFL-commissioned report by University of Central Florida Associate Professor C. Keith Harrison examined why Blacks disproportionately don’t get rehired as NFL coaches or coordinators after being fired as head coaches.  The 30-page coaching mobility report looked at 50 years of human resource data (1963-2012) and found several not-too-surprising findings:

Of the 141 NFL head coaches hired between 1963-2012, only 17 were people of color.

Forty-six Whites have gotten second chances after being fired from their first head-coaching job; 12 Whites got a third chance and three Whites a fourth chance.

However, only one non-White fired head coach has gotten a second head-coaching job since 2007, and only one non-White got a third chance after being twice fired.

With Smith’s hiring, it’s now six fired Black head coaches who have gotten “second chances.”

“Historically,” reports Harrison, “NFL teams have been reluctant to hire a non-White individual for a head coach, offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator position after [they] have previously separated from a head coach position in the NFL. The unconscious and conscious label of ‘the White Standard’ by evaluators means evaluators perceive successful leaders as White…”

A ruse by any other name still smells the same.


Next Week: Richard Lapchick’s latest report on college football coaches

Read “Another View Extra” on this week’s MSR website on the state of sports talk.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to


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