Not one, but two, African American head coaches are headed to Miami for Super Bowl XLI. Which begs the question: Should the NFL do away with the Rooney Rule?
Under the NFL’s Rooney Rule, any team in the National Football League offering a head coaching position must interview at least one minority candidate. Named after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ owner Dan Rooney, chairman of the league’s diversity committee, the rule was created in the hopes of increasing the number of minority head coaches in the league.
In 2003, Matt Millen, the president of the Detroit Lions organization, was fined $200,000 for violating the Rooney Rule after hiring head coach Steve Mariucci without first interviewing any minority candidates. But the fact was that Steve Mariucci was the only candidate interviewed for the position of head coach. Five minority candidates, in fact, turned down interviews for the Detroit Lions head coaching position, because it seemed inevitable that Steve Mariucci would land the position.
Affirmative action in general can be inherently unfair. However, in the present day National Football League, such regulations as the Rooney Rule are downright ridiculous. Minority coaches, including head coaches, not only hold some of the most coveted positions in the league, but they excel in them.
Which team in the NFL searching for a head coach would turn down the Chicago Bears’ Lovie Smith if he were available? Likewise, any team in the National Football League in need of a head coach would be more than happy to have the Indianapolis Colts’ Tony Dungy. And the Kansas City Chiefs’ Herm Edwards certainly didn’t have any problems finding another head coaching position when he was fired from the New York Jets. Dennis Green of the Arizona Cardinals and Art Shell of the Oakland Raiders were recently fired because of their teams’ poor performances, but the work of Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals and Romeo Crennel of the Cleveland Browns continues to be praised.
Did any of those head coaches land their positions because of the NFL’s Rooney Rule? Of course not. They landed them because of their talent and knowledge of the game. The Rooney Rule doesn’t require teams to hire minority head coaches, only interview them. And thus, the required interviews are nothing more than a sham. It’s a disgrace to exceptional minority head coaches like Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy that the NFL should feel, even in the wake of their performances, that the NFL is still in need of such a ridiculous rule.
It is a true shame that in a sport as diverse as American football such a rule should exist, or have any reason to exist. And it should be done away with sooner rather than later.