As the Seattle Seahawks face criticism for their execution of the NFL's "Rooney Rule" before naming Pete Carroll has their head coach, it was confirmed Monday that the Seahawks last month reached out to Tony Dungy to become their team president.
John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance that monitors the minority hiring process with the NFL, said Dungy turned down the opportunity with the Seahawks.
"They called Tony about three weeks ago to see if he would seriously consider becoming their president," said Wooten. "He told them he wanted to pray and sleep on it but the next day he called them back and said he wanted to stick with everything he was doing now. He would have been the guy, I believe, if he had wanted to do it."
Dungy told ESPN last month that an executive search firm had contacted him about a front office leadership position with an NFL franchise but he did not want to identify the team. Dungy could not be reached Monday night for a more specific response to the Seahawks' interest last month.
Wooten said the Seahawks' willingness to apparently hire Dungy was one reason why he was adamant with Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke that the team not name Carroll as team president and coach before he gave his blessing to Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to interview with the team.
"I've had a good line of communication with Tod now," said Wooten, who reiterated he was concerned with the reports that Carroll would have total control of the football operation. "Leslie Frazier was on his coaching list because that's a guy Tony Dungy recommends highly. But if Pete was in charge of everything, what would have been the point? That would have been a calamity."
Wooten is aware that Carroll will have control over the team's 53-man roster, but that it was important to the Pollard Alliance that a president and GM search proceed with minorities being interviewed.
"Look, I've been in football all my life and we all know that a good football operation means the GM and coach are on the same page when it comes to personnel," said Wooten. "And talking to Pete, he knows how it works, too. I'm working with Tod on the president and GM process. They will all get on the same page and Pete will have his input, just as he should as a head coach. ... just as Tony did with Bill Polian in Indianapolis. But the job description needs to be clear."
Wooten expected Leiweke was scheduled to brief him on the front office search that will include interviews with at least two minorities outside the organization -- New York Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross as a GM candidate and Pittsburgh Steelers business and football administration coordinator Omar Khan as a candidate for team president or in a more enhanced front office business role.
Wooten did believe stinging criticism of the process "isn't a bad thing but I don't want the media to overlook all the good that's been done since 2003."
He further noted that there was a major breakthrough with six minority hires at the NCAA Division 1 level in recent weeks.
"For me, that's the most encouraging development we've seen in awhile," said Wooten. "The NFL was far ahead of the NCAA and all we're trying to do is make sure the process works for everyone. We can't mandate who people hire but we can do our best to make sure the process is fair."
Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst.