It’s still worth saving

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
Updated: January 9, 2011

DALLAS — When there’s a minority coach as bad as Rich Kotite or David Shula, or even Eric Mangini, we can talk about getting rid of the Rooney Rule.

Until then, deal with it.

There’s nothing wrong with the Rooney Rule, established in 2002 to ensure NFL clubs with vacant head coaching positions interview minority candidates before hiring a coach.

You can argue, if you choose, whether it’s an effective rule.

Some of you might think it’s disingenuous to interview a candidate when the world has a pretty good idea who’s ultimately going to get the job.

Bottom line: The number of minority coaches in the NFL is growing steadily.

There have been six at the start of each of the last two seasons. And toward the end of the 2010 season, there were eight after Leslie Frazier was named interim coach of the Vikings and Eric Studesville was named to a similar position with the Broncos.

Although San Francisco fired Mike Singletary, the number of minority coaches could swell because Minnesota has already removed the interim tag from Frazier’s status, Ron Rivera is supposed to interview soon with Carolina, and Hue Jackson is considered among the front-runners to get the Oakland job.

That’s a positive trend, no doubt. But it’s not good enough.

It’ll never be good enough until the NFL achieves the same standard the NBA has reached, which means there are average minority coaches as well as bad ones. And minority coaches who are retreads with subpar won-loss records.

After all, Kotite wrecked the Eagles and Jets.

Shula, a product of nepotism if one ever existed, was awful as Cincinnati’s head coach. And Mangini has had four wins or fewer in three of his five seasons — three with the New York Jets and two with Cleveland — as an NFL head coach.

Rest assured, sooner or later, the 39-year-old will get another shot at a head coaching position.

When we no longer concern ourselves with whether a coach is a minority, then it’ll be time to start discussing whether we need the Rooney Rule.

What some of you don’t understand is the Rooney Rule is not about forcing a club to hire a minority candidate it doesn’t want. It’s about giving qualified assistant coaches and coordinators an opportunity to sit down with the NFL’s power brokers — owners and general managers.

What’s wrong with that? Nothing.

So what if there’s a leader in the clubhouse? We don’t tell undrafted free agents not to show up for training camp just because they’re probably not going to earn a roster spot.

No one expected Mike Tomlin to get the Steelers job. It was supposed to go to Russ Grimm. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review even reported Grimm would get the job.

And he probably would have, if Tomlin hadn’t blown away Pittsburgh’s ownership during his interview. That, people, is the beauty of opportunity.

All most folks want is an opportunity. If it’s not good enough, for whatever reason, then it’s not good enough.

But if you go through the interview process and get a feel for the types of questions management wants answered and the type of PowerPoint presentation that works best, then the candidate should do a better job the next time he gets an interview.

And the third time. Or the fourth.

You never know when opportunity will present itself. The smartest people constantly prepare because the faith and confidence in their own ability tells them they will get an opportunity one day — and they want to be ready when it occurs.

Even if a candidate doesn’t get the job he interviews for, he might make a powerful impression on the GM or owner. You think they don’t talk to other GMs and other owners?

Word gets around about hot assistant coaches because owners and GMs are forever searching for the next Bill Belichick.