The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which has promoted equal opportunities for minorities in NFL hiring since its founding in 2003, downplayed concerns Tuesday over the Oakland Raiders' potentially skirting the Rooney Rule amid a deal with Jon Gruden appearing imminent.
"I would trust the judgment and integrity of [Raiders owner] Mark Davis and [general manager] 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," Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten told ESPN on Tuesday.
ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that Gruden is expected to become the Raiders' next coach following nine seasons as an ESPN analyst.
Gruden confirmed his candidacy with the Raiders during a Tuesday interview with the Bay Area News Group.
"Well, I think I am being considered, yes. I hope I'm a candidate," he said.
Gruden told the Bay Area News Group that he expected the team to interview candidates this week before deciding sometime next week.
"I think 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," Wooten said.
Wooten encouraged qualified minority candidates to interview for the Oakland job and other jobs even when reports suggest that teams are set on hiring someone else. In the past, he encouraged current Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn to interview for jobs despite Lynn's publicly stated concerns about being brought in simply to fulfill the Rooney Rule. Lynn did interview for the New York Jets' vacancy in 2015, when another minority candidate, Todd Bowles, was hired. Lynn, then a Jets assistant, resisted other interview opportunities.
"I remember saying this to Anthony Lynn when he was with the Jets," Wooten said. "I said, 'Take the interview,' because No. 1, you need to take it simply because you need to learn and know how. It helps them and it helps us because we are able to critique the interview with the team to see what the shortcomings were, or what was this or what was that, to give him the information that he needs to take an interview later at San Diego.
"Where the sham comes is where you interview a guy you know has no capabilities for interviewing for what you are interviewing him for. When you interview people you know have the ability to do this job, you are not hurting them."
More broadly, Wooten said he's generally pleased with the direction the league has gone with minority hiring.
"We recognize the fact we simply do not have a strong pipeline as it relates to offensive coordinators and quarterback coaches for minorities," Wooten said. "You see a shortage of that at the college level, which affects the pro level. That is where the Bill Walsh minority coaching fellowship and career-development symposiums have to be pushing and pulling to get this open."