The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for

Worth keeping


About a decade ago, I got a call from an angry Tony Dungy after an offseason in which recycled white coaches filled all the vacancies. He was upset about it and I repeated his strongly worded views in a story.

Soon afterward, the late Johnnie Cochran Jr. and Cyrus Mehri held a news conference, Paul Tagliabue appointed a committee headed by Steelers owner Dan Rooney and the Rooney rule was born, requiring teams to interview minorities for every coaching vacancy. It was a setup -- both Tagliabue and Rooney were thankful that Cochran and Mehri and the implied threat of a lawsuit had given them the opportunity to sell integration at the coaching level to reluctant owners.

Seven teams now have African-American coaches compared to two when Dungy and I spoke in 2001 and there are five black GMs or the equivalent position. More important, there are more in the pipeline -- Leslie Frazier, Minnesota's defensive coordinator, has an excellent chance to get a head coaching job this winter and maybe Buffalo will win enough games so that interim coach Perry Fewell will be made permanent.

But just as important is the fact that three black men were just named to head coaching jobs at colleges in BCS conferences -- until now, Miami's Randy Shannon was the only one coaching at one of the 65 schools at that level. Two of them, Turner Gill at Kansas and Charlie Strong at Louisville, were denied jobs they seemingly had earned last year because, so the grapevine said, they were married to white women.

Was that due to the Rooney rule? Bet on it. Black college assistants with head coaching ambitions had been taking NFL jobs because the opportunities for advancement there were so much better.

And even before the rule was extended last winter to apply to front-office hiring, its effects of the rule had expanded upward." This is the best week for African-Americans in the history of the NFL,'' Doug Williams, the only African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl told me when Dungy's Colts and Lovie Smith's Bears qualified for the Super Bowl in the same week that Mike Tomlin was hired as the Steelers' coach and Jerry Reese became the New York Giants' general manager.

"Even more than Tony and Lovie getting to the Super Bowl, the fact that highly visible franchises would hire African-Americans sends a message to everyone.''

There always are ways to circumvent rules.

Certainly there are token interviews -- Jerry Jones talked by phone to Dennis Green before hiring Bill Parcells, the man he wanted all along. Now Dan Snyder apparently has done the same with unnamed minorities before hiring Bruce Allen to run the Redskins. A sham? Sure. But Snyder's hiring practices at all levels have been totally unbiased in the decade he's owned the Skins.

The Rooney rule isn't ideal. Requiring teams to interview people BECAUSE of their race never is. And someday it may not be necessary -- look who got elected President 13 months ago.

But until that ideal time, the NFL needs it. As it trickles down to the NCAA, so much the better.

By Dave Goldberg  |  December 18, 2009; 10:42 AM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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