Here’s a simple question for you: Is Eagles running back coach Duce Staley qualified to be an NFL head coach? Truthfully I don’t know. Chances are you don’t either. Maybe Staley is a sure-fire success story waiting to happen in the near future. Or maybe he is doomed to be a head coaching failure or worse down the road. The point is, we don’t know. But as is too often the case these days, that’s not the question being asked about Staley — a minority coach.
No, instead of talking about Staley’s chances of being a successful head coach after interviewing for the Eagles head coaching job, we’re talking about his skin color. Why? Simple, the 12 year old Rooney Rule.
The Rooney Rule, which requires at least one minority candidate to be interviewed, is perhaps the best and noblest idea the NFL has ever adopted — especially when considering that during the time the Rooney Rule was adopted the NFL was in the midst of downplaying or potentially hiding the long term impacts of concussions. So yeah, for a questionable organization such as the NFL, they did the right thing with the Rooney Rule.
The problem is that anytime a minority candidate seems to get an interview — especially one not deemed a “sure thing” — the first thing that is pointed out is that a team has now complied with the Rooney Rule and is thus free to interview and hire any coach they want. Don’t believe me? Just look at the articles written about Staley’s interview. NBC, ESPN, NFL.com, and local Philadelphia stations have all noted that Staley’s interview satisfies the Rooney Rule requirement, as if it was just a box that had to be checked by the organization
ESPN’s article was particularly appalling in it’s nature and description, noting that “the interview also helps the Eagles meet the requirements of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which mandates the inclusion of minority candidates being interviewed before franchises can complete the hiring process.” Or, in other words, the Eagles have checked their Rooney Rule box and can move on. Not once in ESPN’s article did ESPN parse the merits of Staley’s interview or potential hire. It was instead met with apathy in knowing that the interview was likely a sham met to fill a quota. That’s a shame for Duce Staley, a shame for Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, a shame for the NFL, and a shame for the Rooney family who certainly wanted more from the process.
For Staley the decision to interview was an easy one. A chance to get one-on-one with an owner and his trusted aides can’t be passed up, even if Staley himself suspected the interview wasn’t “real.” As legend goes, current Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t the first choice in Pittsburgh years ago, but impressed so much in his interview that he won the job. Staley can’t pass up such a chance and did the right thing by interviewing for the position.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know the best solution to these Rooney Rule issues and discussions. Perhaps the Rooney Rule is the best option there is in order to guarantee minorities get a chance. While it’s easy to say that “the best man for the job should interview regardless of color,” we’re a nation that doesn’t always make the right decisions to begin with, so making an owner take a step he might not normally take isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At the same time, I just wish there was more being reported than the fact that Staley’s interview helped the Eagles, as if he is a person and coach of no consequence whatsoever. That should be something we all hope for, regardless of our skin tone.