Fewell Sees Continued Need For Rooney Rule

Perry Fewell told the Daily News that all of his head coaching interviews were legitimate. But that doesn't mean it's time to get rid of the "Rooney Rule" for minority coaches.

Perry Fewell had the offseason of his life so far. With interviews for head coaching spots in Carolina, Cleveland, and Denver, and an expressed interest from the 49ers, the Giants' defensive coordinator was what one might call a "hot" candidate.

The question that popped up repeatedly, though, was whether Fewell was simply being used as a "Rooney Rule" candidate -- one who is called in for a sham interview to satisfy the NFL mandate that at least one minority candidate be considered for any major job. Fewell is African-American.

The other discussion that arose was whether the rule was necessary at all. Given the fact that African-American head coaches are commonplace now -- Al Davis just hired Hue Jackson in Oakland, and two of the four coaches involved in Sunday's conference championship games, Chicago's Lovie Smith and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin are also African-American -- is it now time to dispense with it and allow coaches to stand on their own merits.

Fewell's answers were "No" and "No."

In an interview in Sunday's Daily News with Giants beat writer Ralph Vacchiano, Fewell said he felt all three of his interviews were legit. He also said the time for the Rooney Rule has not passed, as many more minority coaches have shown the prerequisites to be head coaches.

"I think the Rooney Rule is a great rule," Fewell said. "As a young assistant coach entering into the National Football League in 1998, you wonder: How do you go about meeting the owners and general managers if you aspire to be a head coach? The Rooney Rule is a vehicle that gives you an avenue to put yourself in front of them and make them think about you."

Fewell said the experience of presenting himself in front of the same people who can advance his career was invaluable.

"There's only 32 of these things," Fewell said of coaching jobs. "So I'm more determined now. I'm not really discouraged. I learned a lot in the process. It's an education you get when you have an opportunity to go to the other organizations and interview with them. But I found out that I am prepared in many ways. I think I'm qualified. I think I'm ready."

Did he believe he was being "Rooney Ruled?"

"Did I feel like I was being used in any way? No I didn't," Fewell said. "I thought the interviews were very legit. I thought there was a genuine interest. And I think I met people and developed a relationship with people that if they didn't help me now, they could possibly help me down the road.

"You could tell when they are seriously interested by the questions they asked and their body language. I was very fortunate in that I felt all three teams were very interested and wanted to know who I was and what I represented."

The feeling around the league is split over the rule that was enacted in 1993. Of the league's 32 coaches, seven are black and one, the Panthers' Ron Rivera, is of hispanic descent. That's 25 percent, which would seem to provide enough evidence to get rid of the rule. But the rule still stands as a safeguard against the NFL falling back into its old ways.

It would be hard to convince Fewell otherwise.

"I think it's a great tool for minority coaches to have the opportunity to sit in front of an owner or a GM to present who you are and what you represent," Fewell said.

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