McKenzie a proponent of Rooney Rule, 'if used correctly'

McKenzie a proponent of Rooney Rule, 'if used correctly'
January 23, 2013, 11:15 am
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Of the five NFL GM openings this offseason, none were filled by a minority. (AP)

MOBILE, Ala. -- Reggie McKenzie is one of five African-American general manager in the National Football League. So yeah, the Raiders' second-year G.M. takes a special interest in the Rooney Rule and is a proponent of it, which maintains that NFL teams must interview at least one minority candidate during a head coach hiring process.

"If it's used correctly, yes," McKenzie told CSNBayArea.com following the North squad's Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Wednesday. "If it's used correctly. The bottom line is trying to get guys to work hard, to identify guys who are worthy of getting an interview. Instead of, you know, hiring guys that they know. This just kind of widens the door a little bit.

"But just to do something just to satisfy the rule? I don't like that at all."

Not that McKenzie was accusing teams of doing that since the season ended, but of the eight head coach openings that came about since the end of the regular season, not one was filled by a minority. Carolina's Ron Rivera, however, essentially had to re-interview for his job with the Panthers and was retained.

With Lovie Smith and Romeo Crennel fired by Chicago and Kansas City, respectively, the number of African-American coaches in a league whose rosters are predominantly African-American dropped from five to three -- Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin and Minnesota's Leslie Frazier -- and there is only one play-calling offensive coordinator in the game in Baltimore's Jim Caldwell.

And of the five G.M. openings this offseason, none were filled by a minority.

The four other current African-American G.M's, along with McKenzie? Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome, Houston's Rick Smith, the New York Giants' Jerry Reece and Detroit's Martin Mayhew.

"Yeah, it's a pride thing," said McKenzie, who added that being one of five does not necessarily define him.

"I think if I was in Ozzie Newsome's shoes I would feel that much more, because he was the first and he's done well and he's kind of carried the torch. But I'm proud to be part of it. I'm proud of what Ozzie has set forth, so I'm respectful that way. And for the Raiders, I think it's kind of one of those things that Mr. (Al) Davis stood for. So I take pride in that."

Indeed, under Davis, the Raiders were at the forefront of diversity in the game, having hired the first Latino head coach who would win a Super Bowl in Tom Flores, the first African-American head coach in the modern NFL in Art Shell and the first female CEO in Amy Trask.

McKenzie, a former Raiders linebacker, was hired by the late Davis' son Mark Davis just over a year ago.

"To make sure that it's a good thing that I'm here is kind of what drives me," McKenzie said. "So I'm going to keep marching forward and try to prove my worth."