Commentary: Did Rooney Rule do the job?

Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier got two more interviews for head-coaching jobs this offseason, but he is now 0-for-7 in being hired after an interview. It magnifies the question about how serious owners are when they interview him.

The decision by the Buffalo Bills to hire NFL retread Chan Gailey as their new head coach Tuesday has once again left Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on the outside looking in when it comes to getting a head-coaching position. While many in Vikings Country are happy to see Frazier still with the organization, it gives pause for thought as to the process used in hiring a head coach.

While the Bills claimed to have had an excellent interview with Frazier and that they were very impressed with him, even after the interview the general feeling among those with knowledge of the situation was that Frazier, to use a golf expression, was the "leader in the clubhouse" after being interviewed during the Vikings' bye week. He was the frontrunner at the time, but there were still a lot of candidates still on the course.

The chain of events also brings into question the validity of the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head-coaching vacancies. To some, the Rooney Rule is a positive. It has given coaching candidates like Frazier the opportunity to interview for positions and gain support as head-coaching candidates. To others, however, the rule is little more than institutional racism – a required roadblock put in the way that must be "satisfied" before hiring a new coach can be completed.

Of the head coaching vacancies that came up already during the offseason for non-playoff teams, the Washington Redskins wasted little time in signing Mike Shanahan as their new head coach. That came as no surprise, since Washington owner Daniel Snyder loves to blow millions hiring big-name players and coaches that are either beyond their prime or over their heads. Snyder knew who he wanted for the position and made a run to get him.

The Seattle Seahawks hired USC coach Pete Carroll shortly after firing head coach Jim Mora and, although Frazier initially balked at interviewing for the position because it was clear he wasn't being viewed as a legitimate head-coaching candidate, he relented and allowed the Seahawks to, according to Commissioner Roger Goodell, "satisfy the Rooney Rule" in their process. Word got out last week that if former Vikings assistant and Bucs/Colts head coach Tony Dungy had been hired as the general manager, he would have hired Frazier. But seeing as that didn't happen, the interview process with the team and Frazier smacks of an exercise in futility.

The Gailey signing with Buffalo is even more disconcerting. There has been talk that as many as five or six potential head-coaching candidates turned down the job out of hand. Frazier wanted the job and has done everything he could to do his part in order to secure the job. In explaining why they would dust off a relic like Gailey, the Buffalo brass cited that they wanted a coach with previous head-coaching experience. If that was the case, why interview Frazier in the first place? Was it simply to satisfy the mandates of the Rooney Rule?

If that is the case, the Rooney Rule should just be abolished. If it doesn't have any teeth to it and can be easily circumvented, what is the point of having it? There are some that have contended that the success the Vikings are enjoying – assistants for playoff teams can't be interviewed during the time that they are still playing – inhibits their coaches from being promoted elsewhere, but how often has that stopped anyone from plucking a coordinator off of a successful team? It happens all the time.

For Vikings fans and players, the fact Frazier is still in the organization is a good thing for them. But for a coach with two decades of experience and a clear success rate wherever he has been, the process has become little more than a sad joke that needs to be addressed at some point. The Rooney Rule at its heart is a good thing. But until the practical application of the rule is used honestly and realistically, it is little more than a "separate but equal" proposition for NFL owners to avoid whenever they choose to.

WEDENSDAY NOTES

  • There will be a lot of interest today in the condition of Ray Edwards' knee when the Vikings return to practice. He suffered a strained MCL Sunday and, while he has claimed he will be good to go Sunday against the Saints, today will be a more accurate litmus test of his progress and the severity of the injury.

  • If the Vikings win Sunday, the NFL will have to do a lot of scrambling. With the addition of Antoine Winfield to the Pro Bowl roster, 10 of the NFC's current Pro Bowl roster are Vikings. If the Vikings go to the Super Bowl, all 10 will have to be replaced, which may be a tall order since that makes up about 20 percent of the NFC roster.

  • One has to question the validity of the Pro Bowl selection process. Winfield missed almost half the season with a foot injury and didn't play particularly well after returning, begging the question as to whether he was truly deserving of being picked to play in the NFL all-star game.

  • Linebacker Erin Henderson rejoined the team after a four-game suspension for violating the league's banned-substances policy. The Vikings have a one-week roster exemption on him, giving them until next Monday to make a decision on whether or not to activate him.


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