The NFL is looking into whether the Oakland Raiders violated the Rooney Rule during their hiring of Jon Gruden as head coach, a league spokesman confirmed to NFL Network’s Steve Wyche.
The development comes a day after the Fitz Pollard Alliance, an advocacy group that promotes diversity in NFL front offices and coaching staffs, asked the league to investigate whether the Raiders potentially reached an agreement with Gruden before interviewing minority candidates. The Rooney Rule requires NFL teams interview at least one minority candidate for coaching jobs.
“As soon as we learned of the reports, we formally requested that the NFL thoroughly investigate the matter to conclusively determine whether the Rooney Rule was violated — and if it was violated, to impose an appropriate punishment,” Fitz Pollard Alliance counsel Cyrus Mehri and N. Jeremi Duru said in a statement obtained by NFL Network’s Steve Wyche.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie interviewed two minority candidates — Oakland tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin — before the team officially announced Gruden’s hiring Saturday. Prior to Gruden’s official hiring, the Fritz Pollard Alliance initially believed the Raiders were in compliance with the Rooney Rule.
However, during Gruden’s introductory news conference Tuesday, Raiders owner Mark Davis said he met with Gruden in Philadelphia on Christmas Eve, and felt “pretty confident that he was all-in” after their meeting.
“…That’s the term that we were using in our discussions and everything, are you all-in? And I never wavered from all-in. And this time he didn’t waver, either,” Davis said.
Wyche reported on NFL Network’s Up to the Minute Live that the revised timeline of Gruden’s hiring led to the Fritz Pollard Alliance’s investigation request.
“Last week, the FPA had no problem with how the Raiders handled it, but then Davis’ words came back to adjust the timeline,” Wyche said. “They want to make sure the Raiders complied … and that the interview process was parallel, meaning: If Mark Davis spent five hours talking to Jon Gruden, did he spend that much time talking to other candidates? Or was it just a sham or lip service-type of interview just to meet this qualification?
“The league and the Fritz Pollard Alliance wants to make sure that the Rooney Rule is exercised in good spirit at all times.”
Davis fired coach Jack Del Rio after the Raiders‘ Dec. 31 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Davis told reporters he would have retained Del Rio if Gruden wasn’t available, adding that he had been pursuing the former Monday Night Football color commentator for six years.
If the NFL finds the Raiders violated the Rooney Rule, they could face a fine from the league, Wyche reported.