Detoit Lions president Matt Millen was fined $200,000 by the NFL for not interviewing any minority candidates, despite the fact that five black candidates were offered interviews:

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue sent a letter to Millen informing him of the fine, the first levied under the league’s diversity program.

After coach Marty Mornhinweg was fired by the Lions in January, Mariucci was the only person interviewed for the job. The team said five minority candidates turned down interviews because it appeared inevitable Mariucci would be hired.

“While certain of the difficulties that you encountered in seeking to schedule interviews with minority candidates were beyond your control, you did not take sufficient steps to satisfy the commitment that you had made,” Tagliabue wrote.

Now, what exactly were the Lions supposed to do? Mariucci was clearly the best coach available, having just been inexplicably released from his contract by the 49ers. Were they supposed to publically say they though Mariucci was horrible and that they really, really wanted a black guy no matter what?

The NFL’s so-called “Rooney Rule” is laudable in its intention but rather silly in application. The NFL has a paltry number of black head coaches given the high percentage of black players and former players. But sometimes an obvious candidate emerges, as when the Dallas Cowboys went after Bill Parcells this offseason. Former Minnesota Vikings head coach Dennis Green was clearly the number two choice–but he was a distant second and there were no bones made about that. It’s one thing to ask teams to give minority candidates an interview in situations when they’re seriously looking to find a good fit. It’s frankly patronizing in those cases where teams have their eye on a particular guy out of the box.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Guy Cabot says:

    Whoa, there.

    Mariucci “clearly the best coach available”??

    Not if we’re using a wins-losses criteria. Then you’d have to select Dennis Green.

    With SF, Mariucci took a pretty decent team and turned it into a soap opera.

    Let’s face the fact Detroit had a chance–an opportunity, really–to at least interview some talented black candidates (including the Lions’ own Defensive Coordinator, Sherm Lewis, who frequently appears on head coach short lists) and they elected to go with the status quo.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Dennis Green is an excellent coach–as is Art Shell, who inexplicably never got another head job after doing pretty well with the Raiders. But Green made it pretty clear that he was only going to take a job that was HC-GM, which the Lions weren’t willing to consider. Mariucci was quite successful with the 49ers, considering all the turmoil with DeBartolo, having Bill Walsh around screwing things up, and the salary cap hell they went through.