NFL investigating whether Raiders violated Rooney Rule when they hired Jon Gruden

The Oakland Raiders were in a don’t think-don’t blink situation with their coaching staff this offseason, deciding to fire Jack Del Rio and hire Jon Gruden, while throwing $100 million over 10 years at the former Raiders coach who was lured out of the ESPN “Monday Night Football” booth. Mark Davis made it clear he’d been trying to convince Gruden for years and, even though the Raiders said they interviewed minority candidates, the NFL is now investigating the Raiders for a violation of the Rooney Rule.

Gruden was introduced on Tuesday at a wild press conference that only served to increase an already fast-moving hype train. The Raiders confirmed leading up to the press conference and then during the press conference the team interviewed tight ends coach Bobby Johnson as well as USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin for the job prior to hiring Gruden. 


The timing is questionable to say the least — Gruden has been coy about how long he’s actually been on board with returning to Oakland, but he did confirm he’d been talking to Davis for “a few weeks” at the press conference. 

Davis said at the press conference he met with Gruden on Christmas Eve in Philadelphia — prior to the Raiders-Eagles game on Christmas night — and was “pretty confident that [Gruden] was all-in.”

The Fritz-Pollard Alliance, through counsel Cyrus Mehri and N. Jeremi Duru, told Steve Wyche of the NFL Network it requested the NFL “thoroughly investigate” the Raiders hiring process after hearing Davis’ statements.


“As soon as we learned of the reports, we formally requested that the NFL thoroughly investigate the matter to conclusively determine whether the Rooney Rule was violated — and if it was violated, to impose an appropriate punishment,” Mehri and Duru said in a statement.

It’s an interesting conundrum here for the NFL for a couple of reasons. One, the Raiders claim they adhered to the letter of the Rooney Rule. But it’s pretty clear they didn’t really care about the spirit of the rule — the Raiders were hiring Gruden and there was nothing stopping that. 

They weren’t going from “giving Jon Gruden $100 million” to “hiring a college offensive coordinator who wasn’t qualified to land the college coaching job at his alma mater amidst the most public and embarrassing search in the last half decade.” (My theory is interviewing the current USC OC might have been a trolljob of former USC OC and Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin, but maybe that’s too deep.)


Two, the Raiders have been one of the best franchises in NFL history when it comes to promoting diversity. Davis’ late father, Al Davis, was at the forefront of hiring minorities (he hired Art Shell twice!) and had venerable CBS Sports colleague Amy Trask on his staff for decades.

The Raiders fired Jack Del Rio on New Year’s Eve, which means Davis knew at the time he fired his current coach who he wanted to hire. 

That won’t affect the NFL’s investigation, however, and the Raiders could easily end up being fined for violating the rule should the league decide the Raiders violated more than just the spirit of the rule. 

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