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Volume 24 No. 200
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Jon Gruden Confirms He Is Candidate For Raiders' Job; Will Rooney Rule Be Issue?

Jon Gruden this morning said there is a “good chance” he is going to be the next Raiders coach. During an appearance on ESPN Radio's "Golic & Wingo," Gruden admitted he has had talks with Raiders Owner Mark Davis about the opening. Gruden: “They're still, I believe, going through the interview process. When he knows, I think we'll all know.” He added, “I'm excited about where I am in terms of studying the game and being prepared to come back and coach.” Gruden said there is “no truth … at all” to reports there is an ownership stake included in his potential contract. Gruden: “There’s no validity to that, none, zero.” He said he wants to get back into coaching after nine years serving as the analyst for “MNF” because “you miss the players, you miss the grind, you miss the journey.” He said, “I love my ‘Monday Night’ team. That has been outstanding and I've had a great opportunity to work with exceptional people. But the peaks and valleys that go along with the football season are things that all coaches always miss when they get away from it” (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 1/3). Gruden yesterday said, “My understanding is they’re interviewing candidates this week and they’re going to let everybody know sometime early next week or whenever they make their decision” (EAST BAY TIMES, 1/3). Pro Football Talk tweeted, "ESPN report: Jon Gruden may get a stake in the Raiders. ESPN employee Jon Gruden: 'There’s no validity to that, none, zero'" (TWITTER.com, 1/3).

TIMING IS IMPORTANT: In S.F., Matt Kawahara notes any NFL team with a head-coaching vacancy "must interview at least one minority candidate" to comply with the league's Rooney Rule, so the timeline of the Raiders' coaching search "could be important" in satisfying the requirement. Delaying a decision "allows the Raiders to interview other candidates this week, as Gruden made sure to mention." NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that the Raiders "appearing to have their hearts set on Gruden is not a factor as long as the basic requirement of the Rooney Rule is met" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/3). The Fritz Pollard Alliance yesterday "downplayed concerns" over the Raiders "potentially skirting the Rooney Rule amid a deal" with Gruden appearing imminent. Fritz Pollard Alliance Chair John Wooten said, "I would trust the judgment and integrity of Mark Davis and [GM] Reggie McKenzie to the point that they have already spoken to minority candidates who could be available veteran coaches, just like Jon Gruden is a veteran ex-coach." Wooten added, "The league -- the clubs -- have all adopted a way of doing business that we feel is very, very open and conducive to what all of us are trying to do, and that is to have an open league, and certainly you have seen it" (ESPN.com, 1/2). 

PUT UP OR SHUT UP: THE UNDEFEATED's Jason Reid wrote it is time for the NFL to either "significantly strengthen the Rooney Rule or scrap it altogether," as yet another team owner "has given the process the middle finger." With Davis "apparently so far down the road on making a splashy rehire, it’s laughable to suggest that the Raiders will actually comply with the spirit of the rule by interviewing a coach of color" who has a 0% chance of getting the job. The Raiders will "meet the letter of the rule -- because it’s absurdly easy to do." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell now "faces a situation in which the Raiders, following in the long tradition established by other clubs, have broken new ground in making a mockery of the rule." If Goodell "believes the concept behind the rule is important for the continued viability of a league in which most of the players are black, then he shouldn’t punt this time." Moving forward, he "must take a tougher stance" (THE UNDEFEATED.com, 1/2). NFL.com's Judy Battista said this is "one of the holes" in the rule, but "I'm not sure how the league fixes it." Battista: "If you're in that position. ... How do you then do the Rooney Rule interviews? How do you interview minority coaches ... how do you do that without making them sham interviews?" ("Inside the NFL," Showtime, 1/2). ESPN's Josina Anderson noted some already "feel this is a sham situation" with the Raiders and Gruden. But it is "important to underline why this was created." Bengals coach Marvin Lewis "could not get a job to save his life" in the early '00s. Anderson: "There are people like the Todd Bowles, the Mike Tomlins, the Ron Riveras, who this has helped" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/2).

PART OF THE RAIDER WAY
: In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore writes the Rooney Rule is "absolutely needed," and if teams "try to skirt or get over or slide around or simply go through the motions in order to optically satisfy the mandate they should be criticized and held accountable." However, the Raiders "never needed the Rooney Rule to do the right thing when it came to hiring minorities in positions of power." Nobody "mandated they hire Tom Flores, the first Hispanic head coach in NFL history or Art Shell, the first African American head coach in league history." The Raiders also "employed the first woman as a franchise president in Amy Trask." The team's "long history of doing the right thing when so many others ignored or paid lip service to it is worth remembering right now as they close in on hiring" Gruden as their next coach (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/3). ESPN's Tony Reali said the potential hiring of Gruden "makes you wonder if the Rooney Rule needs a Rooney Rule." ESPN's Pablo Torre said the rule is "not a definitive solution to this problem because you could always just secretly not hire the person you interview." But it has "forced networking" between minority candidates and owners ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/2). ESPN's Louis Riddick said minority candidates should still interview because "opportunities like this really only come around every so often." Riddick: "You would like for this to be a much more orderly process. ... But the fact of the matter is the owners are going to hire who they want" ("OTL," ESPN, 1/2).