Rooney Rule 2.0

Last week, I mentioned that I had read somewhere that Tom Brady had been the favorite in 74 consecutive games but that streak was in danger because the Bucs are 4.5-point underdogs to the Saints in this year’s season opener – – assuming there is a season and that the opener is played on time.  The reader in Houston sent me an email yesterday afternoon with a significant expansion on that situation:

“The last time Brady was not favored in the regular season was Week 2 of 2015 when the Pats were 1-point dogs on the road against the Bills, and they ended up winning, 40-32. Since that day, Tom has not been an underdog in the regular season, a streak only Steve Young/49ers came close to between 1993 and 1997 (my spread records go back to 1977). During that span, Young/49ers were the favorite in 63 straight games.

“Currently, the second longest player/team fave streak is Brees/Saints standing at 9 games, going into the 2020 season.”

He also pointed out in his email that the Patriots were underdogs for a game against the Cardinals during Brady’s 4-game suspension in 2016.  Yet one more time, thanks for the explanation to the reader in Houston.

The NFL is poised to make some changes to the so-called Rooney Rule as early as this afternoon.  There is a growing recognition that the current rule mandating that teams interview at least one minority candidate for any head coaching or GM vacancy is not producing the sort of results that were envisioned when it began.  The idea now is to incentivize teams not for interviewing candidates but for actually hiring them.  If a team hires a minority head coach, and keeps him on, that team can move up 6 spots in the third round of a draft and if they hire a minority GM, that would be worth moving up 10 spots.  [Aside: Yes, the “move-ups” can be combined if a team hired both a minority GM and head coach.]  In addition to the “draft incentives” other changes are:

  • Teams must now interview at least two minority candidates for any vacant head coach or GM position.
  • Teams must now interview at least one minority candidate for any vacant coordinator position.

I know this is a horribly incorrect thing to say, but I really do not like the idea of these changes.  It is not that I deny the obvious lack of minority head coaches and GMs in the NFL nor is it that I have the slightest objection to the presence of minorities in those positions.  My problem(s) with these changes are far more generic.

First, “Rooney Rule 2.0” would provide an incentive for teams to hire someone based on race or ethnicity.  Simply stated, that is merely a wrinkle on the idea that a team would hire someone solely based on that person’s skin color or ethnicity.  I am sorry; but I find both of those situations to be wrong.  Personally, I do not think it is “progress” to correct a “wrong” with another “wrong”.  To accept that as a way toward “progress”, I would have to believe that the end justifies the means – – and I do not.

Let me state my fundamental principle for any hiring decision – in this case specifically for NFL coaches and executives:

  • Race and/or ethnic background should never be part of the hiring decision.

The fact that race and/or ethnicity has been a significant part of NFL hiring decisions in the past does not make it right to institute a rule that would codify just such behavior in the future.  Oh, and by the way, would the hiring of a white woman as a head coach or as a GM get an even bigger incentive since that legally protected class is even less represented in those positions?

Moreover, if this rule is in place over time, it will penalize teams that made good hiring decisions that happen to be white males.  The Patriots and the Chiefs have not had to make a coaching change for a long time because they hired coaches who have been successful.  So, they never get the opportunity to “move up” in the draft because their coaches are successful?  What kind of perverse universe does that make sense in?

Let me game the system for a moment.  Bill Belichick is the head coach and the GM in New England.  If the Pats hire a minority to be the “GM” but (s)he does nothing but sit at the dais during press conferences, is that worth a 10-spot move up in the Draft?

The fact that decision makers in the NFL are even considering this change identifies the core of the problem; those decision makers do not want to admit it, but this sort of thinking lays it bare.  The stark reality is this:

  • Hiring decisions for head coaching jobs in the NFL and for GM jobs in the NFL are made by the owner – or in the case where a GM “hires a coach” the reality is that the choice is approved by the owner. 
  • White men do not materialize into those positions using the “beam me up, Scotty device”; white men get those jobs because the owners put them in those jobs.
  • The “problem” is that the 32 owners are the “problem”.  They can identify it every morning when they look in the bathroom mirror to brush their teeth.  It is staring back at them.

Until and unless the NFL owners individually decide to change their way of doing business, we can look forward to a “Rooney Rule 3.0” sometime down the road.  This situation cannot be solved by Roger Goodell or his successor(s) or the Fritz Pollard Alliance or the NFLPA.  Those folks can be advocates for change – but they cannot effect change.  In fact, I believe that the very act of proposing such a modification to the Rooney Rule is evidence that those folks realize that they cannot effect change here.

By the way, the Cleveland Browns are not the NFL poster children for this issue.  In very recent history, the Browns have had 2 minority head coaches (Romeo Crennel and Hue Jackson) whose combined record with the team was 27 – 76 – 1.  The Browns have also had 3 minority GMs/Front Office folks (Andrew Berry, Sashi Brown and Ray Farmer).  The Browns demonstrate to me the rather obvious situation that can be simply stated as:

  • Dysfunctional organizations are dysfunctional because they make dysfunctional decisions.  Forest Gump might say that dysfunction is as dysfunction does.

The Browns are not dysfunctional because of the race or ethnicity of their coaches and GMs; the Browns are dysfunctional because they have made bad choices over the years regarding players, coaches, team philosophy and the like.  They have mixed in some minority folks along the way, but that did not cure the dysfunctionality because that exists at a higher level in the organization.

Consider the Skins for a moment.  For the last 20 years, the Skins have had white men as head coaches and GMs.  Two of those white head coaches had won a total of 5 Super Bowls – but they left Washington as failures.  Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan did not “get stupid” all of a sudden and forget how to coach a football team.  The Skins lack of success – like the Browns’ lack of success – has much less to do with the race and ethnicity of the coaches and GMs than it does with the organizational dysfunctionality around those men.

Finally, having spent a lot of time today discussing dysfunction, let us see what The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm has to say about it:

Dysfunctional:  Impaired in some way, often as regards the family unit.  A term much overused by a whole generation of the self-absorbed middle class, who seem to have no qualms about looking a deeply scarred abuse survivor in the face and saying that they, too, grew up in a dysfunctional family because mom and dad never gave them the emotional permission to realize their own uniqueness.  It’s all Oprah’s fault.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………