By Rodimus Dunn
I’ve been a 49er fan since I could walk and talk, so I’m more than elated with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. I never under appreciated the genius of Bill Walsh as the 49ers were devouring Super Bowls like a homeless man at a buffet. Walsh literally revolutionized football offense and the diversity of the passing game. I understood how George Seifert was in over his head, but the 49ers kept winning off of Walsh’s schemes, so all was well. Even though my team had no chance of winning a championship during the Jeff Garcia/Steve Mariucci years, I was contented because they were at least competitive for a playoff spot perennially. Since that time it’s been a complete disaster as the coaching staff and Alex Smith has guaranteed that once one of the NFL’s model franchises will always be in position to get top 10 pick in the draft. Multiple GMs and scouts said that Mike Singletary was overmatched when it came to X’s and O’s, so the 49ers had no shot to beat the league’s elite teams. I’m not a coach, but I do know a lot about football, and I have to concur. My beloved team used the same formations all game in every game, they relegated the most physically gifted tight end in the league to running only seam routes, and the defense could never get off the field on third downs. It was painful to watch. Apparently Harbaugh is extremely advanced when it comes to developing schemes, so my days of watching Vernon Davis do his best Randy Moss impression for 60 minutes may finally be coming to an end. Harbaugh was easily the hottest coaching candidate this year as San Francisco, Denver, Carolina, and Miami were interested in his services. Miami was actually going to make him the highest paid coach in the league! What a disaster that would have been. At any rate, that leads me to the farce that is the Rooney rule. The 49ers wanted Harbaugh at all costs, so interviewing some minority is a waste of time, money, and is disrespectful to the minority coaching candidates. Is there a benefit to the Rooney Rule? Probably? Possibly? Maybe? I’ll debate some of the pros and cons of this controversial rule, and maybe the NFL will take my recommendations about its future. Pro #1: It will produce more minority coaching and executive office candidates This is easily the greatest argument for the rule, as the NFL has long been a “good ol’ boy” patronage league. The job is yours if my dad is friends with your dad, my grandfather gave your under-qualified dad a scouting job 35 years ago, or I’m the head coach so of course I’m going to hire my son as a coordinator or position coach. The argument is that if we interrupt this practice a bit, maybe some qualified minorities will actually get a job, whereas before 2003 they wouldn’t have even gotten an interview. Statistically speaking, the process is working as the percentage of minorities with jobs in the NFL is much higher than it was 10 years ago. Is this a product of the Rooney Rule, or is it because there are more minorities in position to garner these jobs? Unfortunately it’s impossible to determine the reasoning behind minority hiring, because we’ll never know what the owner and GM were actually thinking. Pro #2: It will bring publicity to deserving, yet unknown minority candidates Some guys get jobs just from being from a certain system, like many of the coaches who came from the Belichick tree: Crennel, Weiss, McDaniels, and Mangini. It didn’t matter that most of them were overmatched as head coaches, and it didn’t matter that Crennel was a minority. The only thing that mattered was that they knew the “Patriot way.” Not to mention, if your last name is Shanahan or Schottenheimer you will be employed by an NFL team regardless of your actual credentials. Where does that leave qualified minorities who weren’t lucky enough to coach under someone like Belichick or Tony Dungy? It leaves them unemployed without the Rooney Rule. No one would have ever heard of current head coaches Leslie Frazier or Raheem Morris, or Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewel, if it weren’t for them getting the mandatory minority interviews because of the Rooney Rule. Con #1: Many of the interviews are a sham Interviewing minority candidates who have absolutely no shot at getting the position is insulting to the candidate and the public. Prior to Jerry Jones hiring Jason Garrett for the Dallas head coaching position, he interviewed retread Ray Sherman to satisfy the Rooney Rule. It was painfully obvious to all parties involved that he had zero chance of getting the job, so how does this provide any credibility to the Rooney Rule? Did the Cowboys pay Sherman to engage in their faux-interview? Similarly, when a white hot coaching candidate is available, like Harbaugh, it seems useless to make a team interview a minority when all they want is Harbaugh. Years back, the Detroit Lions were fined by the NFL when they hired Steve Mariucci as head coach without interviewing a minority candidate. His hiring seemed completely inevitable by everyone in the football community, so why would a minority candidate want to be involved with a zero chance of success? Furthermore, why would the NFL be so Draconian to force the issue that much unless they were worried about their image? Con #2: We will never really know if it’s successful There are tons of reports regarding how the Rooney Rule is successful because the percentage of black coaches is much higher than it was prior to the rule’s inception. Those statistics are completely misleading because it is impossible to know if a black coach was interviewed to satisfy the rule, or because they had a legitimate chance at obtaining the job. Everyone points to Mike Tomlin as the shining star of the Rooney Rule, but he actually wasn’t interviewed because of the rule. The Steelers interviewed Ron Rivera, of Hispanic heritage, to satisfy the rule prior to interviewing Tomlin, so they didn’t need to speak to Tomlin unless they actually wanted to hire him. Moreover, everyone talks about the black candidates that are being produced thanks to the rule, but no one quotes the success it has brought any Hispanic candidates. Last I checked they were also considered minorities. We also never hear the statistics about how many minority front office candidates are interviewed or hired. I believe that the Rooney Rule has some benefits, but I think it may have outlived its usefulness. Maybe adopting such a rule in the NCAA would make more sense, as minorities occupy less than 1% of all the head coaching positions. Making a privately owned business, like an NFL franchise, interview certain types of people feels like reverse racism, and seems like a bit of overkill. NCAA football teams all fall under the same supervisory umbrella, so they can make blanket rules easily and without any insubordination. Although the NCAA leadership is dishonest and hypocritical, maybe they can make a difference with something similar to the NFL’s Rooney Rule.