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The Media and the Rooney Rule

Jim Caldwell. (Getty)

Is it possible for the media to mention Jim Caldwell or Ron Meeks and not mention the Rooney Rule? Apparently not. For the past week, every time we hear about one of these guys and the Redskins, we hear that interviewing them would allow the Skins satisfy the league's requirements to speak with a minority candidate. Sometimes, we even hear about their qualifications. Here they are, for the record.

In the past three years, Caldwell-aided Indy offenses (he's the QB coach) have ranked 5th, 3rd and 3rd in the NFL.

In the past three years, Meeks's Indy defenses have ranked 3rd, 21st and 11th in the NFL.

By way of comparison, in the past three years, Gregg Williams's defenses have ranked 8th, 31st and 9th in the NFL.

Obviously, Gregg Williams has both the backing of his players and the benefit of consistency, so I certainly have no problem with media members beating the Williams drum. But they've also beaten plenty of other less defensible drums over the past week. Why Not Schottenheimer, for example. Don Banks took time to lovingly caress the candidacy of Jim Schwartz, as did Michael David Smith, who also likes Jim Mora. Other publications have also thrown Pete Carroll and Brian Billick out there as potential candidates. Matt Mosley mentioned Williams, Cowher, Grimm, Sporano and Schwartz. WTEM spent plenty of time discussing Grimm. Mike and Mike spent plenty of time discussing Carroll. And so on.

And when minority candidates were mentioned in those first few days? Those candidates were named "Rooney Rule."

The Washington Post ran a chart after Gibbs retired, listing the candidates as Cowher, Williams, Grimm and Rooney Rule. The AP's early take was Cowher, Williams, Saunders and Rooney Rule. The Washington Times identified Cowher, Williams, Saunders, Grimm, Pete Carroll and Rooney Rule.

This is what I'd argue: Rooney Rule or no Rooney Rule, it shouldn't be that much of a stretch for media members to identify legitimate minority head coaching candidates, such as the defensive coordinator or QB coach for the defending Super Bowl champion, men who have never gotten head coaching shots and whose units ranked 5th and 3rd in the NFL this year. Am I suggesting that media should throw names out there as legitimate possibilities even if their "sources inside the franchise" have yet to identify them as such? Yes, I am, in the same way that some of these white guys' names are thrown around wildly in the first few days. Will accuracy suffer? Well, how did all those mentions of Pete Carroll and Bill Cowher work out?

The fact is, it remains absurd for a league whose players are majority black to have just seven black head coaches. Ownership needed a kick from behind to help change that, and the media apparently does too, since even with the benefit of time every mention of Caldwell or Meeks is quickly followed with "would satisfy the league's Rooney Rule." That will lead, inevitably, to rants like this.

So all I'm saying is, when a vacancy pops up, it would be nice to see media throwing around the names of qualified minority assistant coaches without amending those lists with the phrase "would satisfy the league's Rooney Rule."

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 15, 2008; 12:16 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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I'm sorry, but when you make a preposterously designed rule, you are going to force ridiculous behavior. The Rooney Rule hurts the general impression of minority coaches...doing the exact opposite of it purported intentions.

Posted by: Geoff | January 15, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I think the rooney rule is working even though it is flawed. In the time before the rooney rule, these guys would not have even been referenced as head coaching material. At least the rule forces people to think about them...even if it is just a token interview. It gets their name out there.

Posted by: Chimpanzee Rage | January 15, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Meeks coaches the defense and Caldwell on offense. Might want to clear that up before accusing others of poor coverage (although I agree that the repeated mention of the Rooney Rule is excessive)

Posted by: Um | January 15, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Ha ha, well put Um. Fixed, and thanks.

I'm not accusing people of "poor coverage," per se; the coverage has been voluminous and fascinating, considering how little of it is coming from the team in any sort of formal way. I'm just saying the media falls into the same pattern NFL teams have followed of thinking of the easy names.

The Rooney Rule was meant to suggest that there are other, less easy names out there, but insisting on accompanying those names with "would satisfy the Rooney Rule" completely defeats the purpose.

Posted by: Dan Steinberg | January 15, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

The token interviews seem like a slap in the face. The owners should have created the Rooney Rule and kept it a secret between themselves.

Posted by: onside kick | January 15, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I think the intent of the Rooney Rule is good, though it does not accomplish everything that was originally intended. But, with that said, it is still sad that these canidates, and many others like them, are too quickly mentioned as 'fulfilling the Rooney Rule' versus, being highly qualified applicants. It may take time, as the case of Doug Williams being a "black quarterback" for the longest time whereas Jason Campbell is known as a very talented quarterback, who just happens to be black.

Posted by: Mike from Yorktown, Va | January 15, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Great post Dan.

Posted by: Johnnie Futbol | January 15, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

It's about damn time for Caldwell to get a job.

Posted by: Unsilent Majority | January 15, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Friends and fans of HBCU's eagerly await Steinz' next post on the disparity in their media coverage.

Posted by: | January 15, 2008 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I confess I'm aware of the Rooney Rule but not completely familiar with it's wording. I know the purpose and intent of the rule. And I know it says minority, but does it really mean black? Is it a minority race? Any minority race? Or any minority. I know this seems like a stupid point, but depending on the wording there are so many other options.
And part of why I ask is: assuming he's Jewish, I never heard Jim Schwartz' name associated with the Rooney Rule -- both a race and a religious minority depending on who you ask. Or does he not count because he's white?
Homosexuals; lefthanders; AB bloodtype; Mormon; Samoan. They are all are minorities. So do they all count and we only hear about it when it's a black coach?

Posted by: Grooven | January 15, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I have been a die hard "skins FAN MY WHOLE LIFE. Since the days of George Allen.

Why can't the NFL finaly move on past the race issue ? Regardless of a mans skin color, shouldn't his qualification mean something rather than trying to satisfy
a quota of interviewing so many white and so many blacks and so many asian coaches ?

Still a Redskins fan in South Carolina.

Posted by: Vance Haymaker | January 16, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

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