(ALLEN PARK, MI) -- By now you've heard the cries of Johnnie Cochran, Cyrus Mehri and Jesse Jackson recently piling onto the Lions for their alleged failure to heed the NFL's minority hiring policy. They all are decrying the Lions for their failure to interview a minority candidate for their opening after they dismissed two-year head coach Marty Mornhinweg as their head man.
Jackson is urging the NFL to heavily fine the Lions and even more ridiculous, totally disqualify them from the entire 2003 NFL draft or else, Jackson says, "other teams will violate the hiring process." Jackson continued, "Would you interview for a job you already know is going to someone else?" Jackson said.
My answer, "yes".
Let's say I found out that a major Detroit newspaper was looking for a new beat reporter to cover the Lions but had named....let's say... a majority candidate as their front runner, and said, "Hey Mike, this guy is the front runner, but you're welcome to come in for an interview." Would I go for the interview? You bet your life I would.
My spin to the paper would be, "Hey, you're about to hire the wrong man. I'm the right man for this job and let me tell you why. I'm going to do this and do that, and no one will do this job better than me."
Further, you don't KNOW anything is going to anybody.
Now, that newspaper may very well hire the other candidate, but my thought would be to put doubt in their mind about who the best candidate really is. Anything could happen, things might not work out with the other guy and guess what? I'm next on that list.
That's the obligation of the African-American coaches would have asked the NFL to put this policy in place. Yes, the policy is long overdue, minorities have been excluded from the interviewing process for way too long. But let's be real, no one is going to guarantee the interviewees a job.
Further, I contend it's the obligation of these coaches to interview for EVERY opening, despite how remote the possiblity of getting the job. The goal is to raise the profile of minority candidates to the point that, maybe they don't get the first job they interview for, but perhaps they get the second one.
Case in point, look at Marvin Lewis. How many times did Lewis go to the altar before finally consummating a marriage with the Cincinnati Bengals? Suppose Lewis would have said, "I'm not going to interview there, they aren't serious about me?"
That's why the NFL cannot, in good conscience, do anything to the Detroit Lions for hiring Steve Mariucci. They must face down the protests of Cochran, Mehri and Jackson and revamp the NFL job interview process. Why is it even called the "minority hiring process?"
They need to spell out EXACTLY what is required. They should add league employed monitors to sit-in on the interview process to ensure fairness. They should also spell out how many candidates have to be invited in before a team has compiled with the league mandate. Further, a team should be deemed to have complied when more than one minority candidate elects to opt-out. There needs to be pressure on the candidates to interview as well as the team doing the interviewing.
How fair is it to the Lions when the BCA issues an advisory telling its members to decline interviews and then when the team hires a majority candidate, they call for penalities? Detroit can easily make a case that only two candidates, Mariucci and Dennis Green, the former Vikings head coach, qualified for the opening, because hiring a coach without a west coast offense background would require a total revamping of the roster. These factors have to be considered in any supposed sanctions.
Right now, the league has to be in a quandry over the matter. The Ford family and Ford Motor Company has one of the strongest records of diversity in the corporate world. Ford is known as an employer-of-choice for minorities of all types.
The Lions have and continue to have high ranking minorities in its front office. Martin Mayhew, the Lions vice-president and general counsel, Sheldon White, director of pro-personnel are both minorities. Risa Balayem, the public relations director for Ford Field is also a minority. Now the NFL is going to say Detroit violated a murky, unclear policy when at least three BCA members elected not to interview for the position?
I can't see that happening. I believe that not only will Detroit not lose draft picks, I don't believe they'll even be fined. The league will go back to the drawing board and spell out the process and the penalty, the Lions will make a commitment to diversity, making a substantial contribution to some organization.
"It takes two to tango" and if you don't want to dance, don't complain about the party.