The League

Roman Oben
Retired Football Player

Roman Oben

Played 12 years as a tackle in the NFL

Not a perfect world


In 2003 the Rooney Rule was established to help qualified minority head coach candidates who may not have otherwise been hired. At that time there were only two minority head coaches: Tony Dungy and Herm Edwards.

Some have argued that the percentage of head coaches in the NFL need to mirror the same demographics of the percentage of the players in the locker room. Regardless of whether or not people still think the Rooney Rule is relevant, we should focus on two words: Qualified candidate. Because of the Rooney Rule, this term has shifted from the same middle-aged recycled head coaches to coordinators who deserve the same opportunity to lead a franchise. Obviously during a coaching vacancy there are NFL team owners who already have a predetermined candidate in mind. In this case owners have to interview token candidates just to fill the quota.

But in the case of Mike Tomlin, the rule enabled coaches like he and Ron Rivera to accelerate the process of interviewing for head coaching jobs. The best analogy I've heard is that the Rooney Rule is good for the same reason we have the seat belt law: It's habit-forming. In a perfect world, neither rule would be necessary, but sometimes forcing people to change their behavior leads to positive results.

The Tomlin situation was the perfect example. Pre-Rooney Rule the Steelers might have chosen to replace Bill Cowher with one of two worthy in-house candidates, Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm.

NFL owners should also remember that the Rooney Rule applies to football operations and pro personnel as well. Jerry Reese became only the third African American GM in NFL history and the first to win a Super Bowl in his rookie year. These owners do have the right to hire whoever they feel is the best person for the job, but we must continue to advance the cause of making sure that the interview process is fair and equal.


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By Roman Oben  |  December 20, 2009; 11:01 AM ET  | Category:  Washington Redskins Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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This is a well written article and goes along way in not only defending the Rooney Rule, but explaining that it is NOT affirmative action NFL style. Forcing teams to interview qualified minorities, is simply smart and prudent business. It puts potential "qualified" applicants in front of the owners, thus creating a "bench" if you will of qualified candidates for future openings. Although the system is not perfect, as none is, it is certainly a step in the right direction to fair hiring practices. Well done Mr. Oben!

Posted by: articulate1 | December 28, 2009 10:07 PM

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