Did Raiders Violate Rooney Rule In Hiring Jon Gruden? Group Calls For Probe

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Jon Gruden and Mark Davis

Photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis was relentless in his pursuit of Jon Gruden — perhaps too relentless.

The Fritz Pollard Alliance, an advocacy group promoting diversity in NFL coaching and executive ranks, has called on the league to investigate Davis and the Raiders for possibly violating the “Rooney Rule” in hiring Gruden as their head coach.

The Rooney Rule states a team must interview at least one minority candidate for its open head coach or executive job. Oakland appeared to fulfill the mandate by interviewing its tight ends coach, Bobby Johnson, and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin.

But here’s the catch: Davis admitted to reporters Tuesday that he met with Gruden on Christmas Eve, where the two agreed in principle to a deal. This came after Davis hounded the then-ESPN analyst for six years, meeting with him several times over that span.

Davis fired head coach Jack Del Rio on Dec. 31, a week after agreeing to a deal with Gruden, and only interviewed Johnson and Martin after Del Rio was gone for a coaching job that, in essence, never really was vacant.

Cyrus Mehri, counsel for the FPA, explained the group’s stance.

“For someone to say for six years, ‘When you are done broadcasting, we would love for you to compete here for a job as the head coach of the Raiders,’ that is not a violation of the Rooney Rule,” Mehri said. “If in December, Gruden says to Davis, ‘Hey, I am going to come out of the broadcast booth and I’m ready to coach again,’ that is not a violation of the Rooney Rule.

“But if in December, Gruden and Davis reach an agreement — not necessarily a written, contractual agreement, but a verbal agreement — that Gruden was going to coach for the Raiders, and then after that they do these interviews with minority coaches, that would be a violation of the Rooney Rule.”

The NFL has yet to address the FPA’s statement, but Raiders could be in hot water here.

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