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Should Saints hire Parcells, Rooney Rule will get mocked once again

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
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Roger Goodell says he won't stand in the way if the Saints want to hire Parcells. (Getty Images)  
Roger Goodell says he won't stand in the way if the Saints want to hire Parcells. (Getty Images)  

The fact Bill Parcells might take over the Saints is being discussed almost everywhere inside the NFL. In coaching offices. In texts between coaches. Phone calls and dinners and pro days. It's everywhere.

Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell couldn't help but comment on Parcells this week.

"That's their decision," he told the Associated Press on Monday when asked about the possibility of Parcells joining the Saints. "They need to make those decisions and we'll move forward. Bill's a great coach, and I'm sure [he] will add a lot of personality and intrigue. And he's as competitive as they get, so I'm sure he'll do a good job."

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There is one corner of the NFL that might be more interested in Parcells and the Saints than others. No one can speak for every black assistant coach in the NFL. There are hundreds with their own individual thoughts and beliefs, but after speaking with a number of them this week, one thing is clear.

If Parcells is named coach of the Saints in a move that effectively bypasses the Rooney Rule, there is going to be a great deal of outrage among many of the black assistants.

One assistant said he believes if Parcells is hired as interim Saints coach, some black assistants will protest the move. One of the things being discussed among some black coaches, this assistant said, would be to send Goodell a letter stating their anger.

Will this happen? No way. This is just talk, and the anger will subside, but the talk is an indication of the frustration over the potential Parcells move.

The idea of teams not following the Rooney Rule arises on occasion. It was an issue that arose as recently as January. There remains a feeling among a significant number of assistants that teams don't strictly adhere to the rule anyway. The Parcells situation only feeds into that notion. The anger this time stems from the fact that if Parcells takes the job it would make a total traveshammockery of one of the great innovations in NFL history, which is the Rooney Rule.

The Rooney Rule was initiated by the NFL in 2003. It's named after Steelers owner Dan Rooney and requires a team looking to fill a head coaching position to interview at least one minority candidate. The caveat is that the rule only applies if a team hires from outside the franchise, which is what the Saints would be doing with Parcells.

If Parcells is hired, it would turn the rule on its head. In essence, it would be a farce.

The Saints would be forced to interview a minority candidate to comply with the rule, with everyone knowing they had no intention of hiring that person. That's the source of the outrage for many black assistants.

This possibility led to a classic rant from Herm Edwards, the former Jets coach turned analyst.

"It makes it a little bit of a scam now," Edwards said. "That's the shame of it all. Sean Payton opening his mouth like he did, he really reflects that this thing is going to become a sham if Bill Parcells takes this job. Because if you do decide to interview a minority, you're going to go with Bill Parcells. You've already said, 'This is our coach.' That's the shame of it all. It puts [Goodell] in another bind."

Edwards is far from the only current or former coach who feels that way. Many do. There is a sense from coaches of all stripes that the Saints would be thumbing their nose at the league by hiring Parcells.

If the Saints do hire Parcells, it wouldn't be the first time a team basically bypassed the rule. One of the most egregious examples came in 2003, when former Detroit Lions general manager Matt Millen promised a head coaching job to Steve Mariucci, and did so before interviewing a minority candidate. The five he then approached declined to be interviewed, knowing the process was a disgrace. The Lions were fined $200,000.

There is talk around the league that any minority coach approached by the Saints will refuse to be interviewed, since everyone knows that person will be a token candidate.

We'll know more about what the Saints will do soon. Goodell will hear Payton's appeal this week and make a decision several days later. If the appeal is denied, the Rooney Rule sham might then begin.

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