John Wooten: Rooney Rule working “especially well” in NFL

Tony Dungy photo courtesy Indianapolis Colts

Former Coach - Herm Edwards

(Herm Edwards photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)
(Tony Dungy photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts)

Talk of Fame Network

Since 2010 there have been 47 head-coaching hires in the NFl, but only seven have gone to African-American candidates – including Hue Jackson, who this year was hired to head the Cleveland Browns.

Critics complain that’s evidence that the Rooney Rule – established in 2003 to require clubs to interview minority candidates – is not doing its job. But former Cleveland Browns’ lineman and, now, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, John Wooten, insists they’re wrong.

“I can’t tell you how great the rule is working,” Wooten said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.  “It is working especially well.

“First of all, in order to appreciate how well the Rooney Rule is actually working … ask Ken Fiore of the league office to send you a chart of minorities throughout all the organizations all over the National Football League and all the assistant coaches, all the offensive and defensive coordinators, general managers, assistant general managers, directors of player personnel all the way to chief operating officers like Kevin Warren in Minnesota. It has done since (2003) an outstanding job of opportunities for minorities.”

The Fritz Pollard Alliance is a group named after the former head coach that promotes the hiring of minority coaches, scouts and front-office personnel in the NFL.

Wooten, who became chairman of the Alliance in 2003, made his comments less than a month after former Indianapolis and Tampa Bay head coach Tony Dungy became the second African-American head coach to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Pollard was the first) – a move Wooten called a significant step forward for minority coaches everywhere.

“You saw a real move of saying to the American public that there are minorities out here that, when given the opportunity, can excel and will excel,” Wooten said. “And this is why the Fritz Pollard (Alliance) under the Rooney Rule has been, in my opinion, a move that has made the National Football League the top sports league in the world.”

Nevertheless, there are several minority coaches – Lovie Smith, Hue Jackson, Raheem Morris and Herm Edwards (in Kansas City), to name a few – fired after three or fewer years on the job. Smith was cashiered earlier this season after just two years in Tampa Bay, while Jackson was canned in Oakland after one year on the job. But Wooten doesn’t believe that’s evidence of owners demonstrating less patience than they might with others … except, perhaps, for one instance.

“The only thing that we have that bothered me,” he said. “was the year Lovie had when he was 10-6 over in Chicago (2012), and he gets fired. Now when you win 10 games you have done a lot of things right.”

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  1. Rasputin
    August 29, 2016

    7 is about 15% of the 47 head coaching hires since 2010. Since blacks are around 13% of the US population, they’ve actually been overrepresented in NFL head coaching hires. Coaching requires a completely different skill set than playing, so there’s no reason to assume the racial makeup of coaching should correspond to that of the players. In fact many of the greatest coaches (e.g. Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh) didn’t play in the NFL at all.
    I don’t care any more about the racial makeup of NFL coaches than I do about the racial makeup of NFL cornerbacks, and neither should anyone else. If you do it’s likely a reflection of your own racial baggage and hangups. Every NFL coach could be an Asian guy for all I care, as long as people are being interviewed and hired for the right reasons.
    The “Rooney rule” is insidious for multiple reasons. It (apparently permanently) entrenches racial division, dividing people by race and attributing an importance to skin color that the ultimately cosmetic trait doesn’t merit. It mandates that teams interview potential hires for the WRONG reason, their skin color. It implicitly assumes that not only some, but most or all NFL teams are somehow seething with anti-black bigotry and otherwise wouldn’t hire black applicants even if they’re the most qualified, which is hogwash. I see no evidence that any NFL organization fits that description, let alone enough of them to justify the Rooney rule. This rule and things like it demonize innocent people and cultivate a victimization narrative to the point where we’re greeted with the absurdity of Colin Kaepernick, a millionaire who gets to play a fun game for a living, refusing to stand for the national anthem because he’s protesting alleged mistreatment of blacks. This alleged mistreatment will never end because it’s not happening. Black Americans are not oppressed. Period. There’s nothing “white America” could do to address his alleged grievances. His complaints, when not adequately pushed back against, only serve to encourage more bad behavior.
    The Rooney rule also undermines the accomplishments of black coaches. Because of it now reasonable people have to ask whether a black coach got the job because of pressure from this affirmative action program or because he truly deserved it. Even in this article its defender is trying to give the rule credit for the growing number of black coaches. Ironically the coach it lauds most, recent HoF inductee Tony Dungee, was hired many years before there was a Rooney rule, underscoring how unnecessary the rule is. The Rooney rule objectively had absolutely nothing to do with Dungy being hired. It should be repealed and ethnic/racial advocacy groups in general should have the class and decency to dissolve themselves so we can finish moving toward the color blind society every good person should want us to have.

    • Rasputin
      August 29, 2016

      Meant to add that Herm Edwards’ hiring had nothing to do with the Rooney rule either. He was already a prominent head coach before it was instituted. That means neither of the careers of the men in your two photos had anything to do with the Rooney rule, and they shouldn’t be tarnished or diminished by an implication otherwise.
      I’ll also add that Wooten’s PR spiel about this affirmative action push somehow being responsible for making the NFL the most popular sports league is moronic. The NFL became #1 long before the Rooney rule, because football in general supplanted baseball as America’s favorite sport, not because of the skin colors involved. If fans just wanted to see “minorities..excel” then the NBA would probably be the #1 league, but it’s not.

    • August 31, 2016

      You miss one small point in your statistical analysis: blacks are about 70% of all NFL players. Shouldn’t, under your use of numbers, they be 70% of head coaches as well?

      • Rasputin
        August 31, 2016

        You somehow missed my entire point. Did you not even read my post? Why do you assume coaching involves the same skill set as playing? Not even all the positions have the same racial makeup. Again, most of the greatest coaches (e.g. Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick, Paul Brown) weren’t even NFL players. Most head coaches today weren’t NFL players. It’s a completely different job than playing.
        You’ve essentially just conceded that your concern with driving up the number of black coaches to artificially high levels is based on a fatally flawed assumption.

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