The NFL said Thursday it will investigate whether the Oakland Raiders violated the “Rooney Rule” when they hired Jon Gruden as their new head coach, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance called for the investigation on Wednesday out of concern that Raiders owner Mark Davis came to an agreement with Gruden before the team interviewed any minority candidates as required by the NFL since 2003.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance is dedicated to promoting diversity and equality of job opportunity in the coaching, front office and scouting staffs of NFL teams.
The Rooney Rule requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate as part of an open process.
The NFL has issued discipline for Rooney Rule violations in the past. Then-Detroit Lions general manager Matt Millen was fined $200,000 for circumventing the rule when he hired Steve Mariucci as the team’s head coach in 2003.
Davis said Tuesday at the news conference introducing Gruden as the team’s new coach that he had been trying to make the move for six years and finally believed it would happen after a meeting in Philadelphia on Christmas Eve, the day before Gruden worked a game between the Raiders and Eagles on ESPN.
“I felt pretty confident that he was all-in,” Davis said. “And 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 fired Jack Del Rio a week later and the team officially hired Gruden on Jan. 6. Davis also said he wouldn’t have fired Del Rio if he didn’t believe Gruden would sign on as coach.
“I believe that I would’ve sat down with Jack and we would’ve figured out coordinators and assistant coaches and things like that and try to figure out how to reinvigorate the franchise through Jack,” he said.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said Tuesday he interviewed two minority candidates before Gruden’s hiring was announced. Those candidates were Oakland tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and Southern California offensive coordinator Tee Martin.
The Raiders haven’t commented on the request from the Fritz Pollard Alliance.