An NFL investigation has determined that the Raiders did comply with the Rooney Rule when they hired Jon Gruden as head coach, the league announced Friday.
Two lawyers from the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the advocacy group that works with the NFL to promote diversity in the coaching and front office ranks, asked the NFL to investigate the Gruden hiring last week. That request came a week after Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten said he felt the Raiders had complied with the rule.
The Rooney Rule requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when filling a head coaching position. The Raiders did interview two minority candidates—USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin and Bobby Johnson, who was Oakland’s tight ends coach under Jack Del Rio—but there’s no indication either was actually considered for the job. Johnson wasn’t even retained as a position coach on Gruden’s new staff.
It was clear that Gruden was the Raiders’ top choice from the beginning. Owner Mark Davis said at Gruden’s introductory press conference that he’d been trying to recruit the coach back to Oakland for six years and met with him in Philadelphia before Christmas to discuss the job. Del Rio wasn’t fired until a week later.
Those interviews were good enough for the NFL, though.
“The NFL confirmed today that its review of the hiring of Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden complied with the Rooney Rule and that the club conducted bona fide interviews with minority candidates as part of its search process,” the league said in a statement.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance doesn’t believe the interviews fulfilled the spirit of the rule, however. It believes the Raiders were “interviewing Martin for second place” and pointed to Mark Davis’s statement that he wouldn’t have fired Del Rio if Gruden had not expressed interest as evidence that Gruden was always the target of the search.
“We strongly disagree with the NFL's conclusion that the Raiders did not violate the Rooney Rule,” the organization said in a statement. “We believe the facts overwhelmingly point in the other direction. In his enthusiasm to hire Jon Gruden, Raiders' owner Mark Davis failed to fulfill his obligation under the Rule and should step forward and acknowledge he violated the Rule.”