Marvin Lewis was one of two candidates known to interview for the Dallas Cowboys head coaching job.
Mike McCarthy was the other and was announced as head coach on Monday.
The uncertain legitimacy of Lewis’ candidacy and the fact that Ron Rivera was the only minority hire of the four made since the end of the regular season have renewed questions about the NFL’s Rooney Rule. It requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate during the hiring process for coaches and general managers.
Rivera, who joined Washington after being fired by Carolina, is one of four minority head coaches in the NFL alongside Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn and Dolphins coach Brian Flores.
Lewis: ‘Keep butting your head against the wall’
Lewis talked about the Rooney Rule and his interview with the Cowboys in a Wednesday appearance on ESPN’s “Golic and Wingo.”
He wasn’t upset with the process, but said that something needs to change to provide minorities more opportunities. He also spoke bluntly about the reality of business owners hiring who they want to hire.
“You keep beating your head up against the wall, but I would say — and again, this is somebody's business, this is somebody's franchise, and nobody's going to tell them who to hire,” Lewis said.
“But if we can just somehow open the process a bit more and provide more opportunity.”
Why the lack of opportunity?
One idea behind the Rooney Rule is that qualified minority candidates face a steeper challenge to getting hired because they have fewer opportunities to begin with and aren’t on the radars of team owners. If given face-time with owners, candidates will have a chance to make an impression and potentially earn a job.
In that sense, Lewis isn’t an ideal Rooney Rule candidate. As a 16-year head coach with the Cincinnati Bengals, he’s very much a known commodity. And with zero playoff wins during that tenure, it’s not hard to make a case that there are more attractive candidates.
Ideally, it’s the lesser-known candidates who are given opportunities via the Rooney Rule, something Lewis acknowledged in his radio appearance.
"There's a lot bigger problems than myself out there," Lewis said.
NFL continues to have a problem
There’s no easy fix to changing the culture of minority leadership opportunities in the NFL. And there’s no way to prove if Jerry Jones gave legitimate consideration to Lewis or had McCarthy tabbed for the job all along.
But leadership in NFL circles remains predominantly white. It remains unclear if the NFL has a plan, the will or the desire to make a significant change.
The numbers suggest that it doesn’t.
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