National Football League finds Raiders complied with Rooney Rule in hiring of Jon Gruden

Doug Mendoza
January 22, 2018

The NFL has concluded that the Oakland Raiders did not violate the Rooney Rule in the hiring of Jon Gruden as head coach following an investigation of the process. The Rooney Rule and all of the League's equal opportunity efforts need to be strengthened. After successfully advocating for the rule which would be named after Dan Rooney, the former owner of the Pittsburgh Steeler and the then head of the NFL Diversity Committee.

The NFL has ruled that the Oakland Raiders complied with the Rooney Rule when hiring head coach Jon Gruden, after a week-long investigation. But there is no requirement to report an interview with any candidate, minority or otherwise, from outside the league.

The rule, which has been in place since 2003, requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate before filling senior football operations positions. One practical application could be potentially requiring teams to immediately report to the league office any interviews conducted with candidates not now employed by NFL teams.

The Raiders interviewed USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin and then-Raiders tight ends coach Bobby Johnson before announcing Gruden's hiring January 6.

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In a statement released on Friday, the Fritz Pollard Alliance said it "strongly disagreed" with the NFL's ruling, adding: "We believe the facts overwhelmingly point in the other direction". Johnson wasn't even retained as a position coach on Gruden's new staff.

In 2003, the National Football League fined the Detroit Lions $200,000 for violating the Rooney Rule when hiring Steve Mariucci. In a further explanation to ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio on Saturday, the league said that they were satisfied that the Raiders conducted "bona fide interviews". At a meeting in Tampa, Florida, leading up to the Raiders' Nov. 5 game against the Miami Dolphins, Davis said that he first gained a sense Gruden was ready to leave the ESPN broadcasting booth and return to coaching.

As for Gruden, he entered the rumor mill as a potential fit for the Tennessee Volunteers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before signing a rich contract as the successor to Del Rio. This put into effect the investigation by the league to see if the Raiders had done their due diligence with the entire head coach search process. Davis hired McKenzie, who is African-American, in 2012.

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