The NFL’s Double Standard

By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
Updated: January 3, 2011

PHILADELPHIA — If Jason Garrett were black, he would have been named the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach immediately after Sunday’s 14-13 season-ending victory against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

If Garrett were black, Jerry Jones could have simply done what Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf did on Monday, give interim coach Leslie Frazier the full-time job without conducting a single interview.

Hiring Garrett is certainly in Jones’ plans, and what he most likely will do.

A high-ranking team official reiterated as much to me in the postgame locker room following the improbable comeback victory led by third-string quarterback Stephen McGee

It cemented a surprising 6-10 final record for a team that Jones once proclaimed as destined for the Super Bowl. And why not give the job to Garrett? As far as interviews go, he aced his.

Garrett led a formerly floundering and rudderless Cowboys team from the bowels of a 1-7 start under the fired Wade Phillips to a 5-3 finish.

“I’m certainly pleased with how he’s operated the team from [the] head-coaching position,” Jones said. “It was very good. He has done very well. I’m pleased we have had the positive experience since we made the change. It does help me look at what Jason is about.”

Garrett is getting the job. Despite all the misinformation that was reported Sunday morning, he just doesn’t have the job yet.

It’s only a matter of time. And it will come quickly as Jones hopes to make the hire as soon as Friday, if not before. But Jones can’t make a move on Garrett until he interviews at least one minority in adherence to the NFL’s “Rooney Rule.”

Because Frazier is black, the Vikings were not bound by such constraints when it was determined they had found their man. Jones has his man as well. He just can’t make the hire yet.

Is it fair? It is what it is. The NFL’s history of exclusionary hiring practices when it comes to race made it such. A time will come when it might not be needed anymore.

And you might point to Frazier, Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, Chicago’s Lovie Smith and Tampa Bay’s Raheem Morris as reasons the rule is no longer needed.

They wouldn’t have gotten those opportunities without the Rooney Rule.

For his part, Jones will simply abide by the rules.

“It’s just those circumstances,” Jones said. “It’s not unfortunate. We recognize the effort we need to make to follow the spirit of the Rooney Rule. I’m for that in so many ways. We want to follow the Rooney Rule.”

And that’s all any of the advocates of the Rooney Rule ask.

It’s one reason why John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, was livid when reports surfaced Sunday morning via the NFL Network that the Cowboys had interviewed receivers coach Ray Sherman on Saturday night to comply with the rule and were set to hire Garrett as soon as today.

Wooten said that would qualify as a “sham” interview, considering it was the night before a game and not a formal interview.

And he would have told Sherman to turn it down.

As it turns out, no interview took place Saturday night at the hotel, says both Jones and Sherman. But the meeting will take place, and soon.

Jones hinted that he might start the interview process Sunday night after the game, but it would begin this morning at the latest. It won’t be a long, drawn-out process either.

Jones said he needs to move quickly because the Cowboys have a lot decisions to make, considering he expects a complete overhaul of the roster.

It’s also because he already has his man. Jones interviewed 10 candidates before deciding on Phillips four years ago.

This time he said he could interview as few as two before making a decision.

Those two apparently will be Sherman and another minority candidate outside the organization, if we are to hold Jones at his word.

Then he will officially name Garrett the eighth head coach in Cowboys history.

Why not do it now?

“I’m really interested in following the spirit of the NFL rules,” Jones said. “That is what this is all about.”

If Garrett were black, it would already be done.