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Rooney Rule Amendments Part II

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San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

We had a very good and meaningful discussion about the Rooney Rule Amendments yesterday...but I feel like I could have expressed my thoughts more clearly.

Number 1 is—-the spirit of the Rooney Rule is to give minority candidates a greater opportunity to interview for GM, head coaching and coordinator positions.

Given an increased opportunity to interview for leadership positions, minority candidates then have to go and ace their interviews the way Mike Tomlin did with Dan Rooney and the Steelers.

To be clear—-I do not believe anyone is suggesting that less qualified candidates of any ethnicity should be hired ahead of more qualified ones—-unless it is a matter of a specific fit.

The perception of a candidate’s qualifications can be highly subjective (beauty in the eye of the beholder), as we saw when Kliff Kingsbury was hired. Anyone who followed Kingsbury’s accomplishments at Texas Tech and his ability to groom young college QBs such as Johnny Manziel, Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes, knows and appreciates his special talents as an offensive unicorn

The question is—-despite Kingsbury’s losing record at Texas Tech, was he adequately qualified to be hired straight out of college as one of the 32 NFL head coaches?

My answer to this question is that often the best hire is a matter of the candidate’s fit in the organization at the right time. You know—-the old right person, right place, right time.

Tony Dungy said a very interesting thing when he explained how owners and GMs just wanted him to provide them with a list of minority candidates that he would recommend. When Dungy asked them what kind of a coach they were specifically looking for, Dungy said that the owners and GMs rarely could identify or say what they were looking for.

After firing Steve Wilks, the Cardinals were clearly looking for their version of a young, creative offensive minded head coach like Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan.

There were reports that a few years ago Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim were very interested in speaking with Sean McVay while he was still an OC. At that time, Bruce Arians’ on-going health issues were a concern.

What surprised me—-and I argued this over and over back when Bruce Arians retired—-with the Cardinals finally looking to use their 1st round draft pick on a QB—-it made total sense back then to hire an offensive minded head coach. The Cardinals were interested in Pat Shurmur, but he was locked in on the Giants. Frank Reich, a former Cardinals’ assistant, was available—-but instead Bidwill and Keim went in another direction in hiring Steve Wilks with the understanding that they would turn the offense over to Mike McCoy.

Bidwill thought Wilks was a good fit because Bidwill recognized that the Cardinals had grown skittish and soft during and after the Cardinals’ embarrassing 49-15 loss to the Panthers in the 2015 NFC Championship game—-Wilks was a key part of that Panthers’ coaching staff—-and not only was he supposed to bring a Panthers’-like toughness to the team, particularly on defense, Bidwill intuited that Wilks could be the coach who could motivate the “different personalties” on the team like D.J. Humphries and Robert Nkemdiche who were not performing as 1st round picks should.

It was Steve Wilks’ fit as a tough guy, but also as a strong motivator that convinced Bidwill and Keim to hire him.

But anyone who knows football, knows that changes in culture do not happen overnight. For Steve Wilks, with Mike McCoy as OC, trying to change the Cardinals’ culture in one year, was an out-and-out impossibility.

What I and others were arguing at the time was for the Cardinals to make an offensive minded head coach a priority so that he could have the key say in which QB the Cardinals should select in the st round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Matching the HC with the new franchise QB would seem to be of paramount importance.

And, thus, this type of an offensive fit was what Bidwill and Keim were looking for in 2019. At first it was hiring a head coach who could help develop Josh Rosen, but once Kingsbury was hired, it became clear that Kyler Murray was a better fit for Kingsbury’s style of offense.

Sometimes it takes a franchise a step backward in order to take two steps forward.

The Cardinals went into the head coaching market in 2019 with a very specific idea of the kind of offensive minded head coach they wanted.

Head coaching jobs are often about the fit.

Back in 1994, I was one of two finalists for the head basketball job at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School in Cambridge, MA. CR&L is not only known for being the high school that produced the acting/screenwriting duo of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck—-it is even more famous in New England for being a basketball powerhouse that in the past has produced the likes of Patrick Ewing and Rumeal Robinson.

In my previous eight seasons as a basketball head coach, my teams at Avon Old Farms (Avon, CT) and the Rivers School (Weston, MA) had won 4 league championships and 8 consecutive invitations to the New England Championships Tournament where only 8 schools in each division are invited.

I had two very important people pushing me for the job—-the CR&L athletic director who was the father of one of my football captains at Rivers and the head of the New England league of officials.

The other finalist, Lance Dottin, was a charismatic and legendary Cambridge alumnus who was one of CR&L’s all-time leading scorers. Lance hadn’t much experience as a coach, but he was back in town and ready to roll if the job was offered to him. Lance was clearly the players’ and parents’ top choice. Understandably so.

In this case, there was the issue of fit. The previous head coach at CR&L retired after 20 years of running the program. He was white. The CR&L teams were like the old Georgetown teams that Patrick Ewing played on under head coach John Thompson—-they were heavily African-American, but so was John Thompson.

When Cambridge decided to hire Lance Dottin, I was told that it was a tough decision because I was more qualified as a head coach, but that there was a very strong sentiment among the players and parents that the new head coach be “one of their own.”

You know what? As disappointed as I was to not be offered the job, I understood CR&L’s decision.

As it turned out, the head of officials recommended me for the Arlington High School job, a Greater Boston League rival of CR&L’s. Arlington was a great fit for me and they pretty much hired me right on the spot. CR&L kicked our butts for three years, man, they and their vaunted full court press were truly outstanding! But, I am very proud on the behalf of my Arlington players to say that they beat Cambridge in my last game against them. It was the first time Arlington had beaten CR&L in boys’ basketball in 41 years.

The point is this—-fit matters.

My final point today is in response to these excellent comments and questions that Riggodrill offered yesterday:

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I would LOVE to know what Adrian Wilson has done to warrant that compliment.

I just don’t get it. I like Adub and he’s certainly been extremely loyal to the Cards but what makes him a promising GM candidate? The color of his skin? What does he do? I don’t know much about Quentin so I’d have to leave that alone.It’s not that I don’t believe you but it really sounds like you’re throwing names out due to skin color as opposed to merit. Unless you know more than the rest of us about his duties and performance.

On another note, you should write a book. The number of stories you have and the people you have met or interacted with is really amazing.

Pass and you have an exciting offense that scores. Pound the ball down their throats in the 4th quarter and you win.

Posted by Riggodrill on May 19, 2020 | 7:59 PM up reply rec (1)

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First of all, I don’t pretend to know anything more than you all do about Adrian Wilson’s duties and performance. As we know, Adub (pictured above being inducted into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor), was one of the Cardinals’ greatest defensive backs of all time. I believe that he belongs in the Mount Rushmore of Cardinals defensive backs with Larry Wilson, Roger Wehrli and Aeneas Willams.

We also know that when Adub was first hired as a regional scout in 2015 by Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim, Bruce Arians described him as the “VP of Stuff.” I wrote an article about it a couple of years ago called “Adrian Wilson—-the Right Stuff”:

https://www.revengeofthebirds.com/2019/11/6/20951225/adrian-wilson-the-right-stuff

Arians was impressed that Adub was trying to help the coaches, players and the front office in any and every way he could.

Last year, Adub received a promotion to Director of Pro Scouting. “The pro scouting director has oversight of the pro scouting department, which scouts upcoming opponents, free agents and players currently under contract with the team.” (per the bleacher report).

Adub reports directly to Steve Keim, particularly in recommending and recruiting free agents during the off-season and during the season, like with TE Dan Arnold. Then, he and his staff provide detailed scouting reports of the team’s next opponent to the coaching staff.

in Michael Bidwill’s press conference to announce the signing of Kliff Kingsbury as head coach.It was very interesting to hear Bidwill specially thank former Giants’ GM Ernie Accorsi and Adrian Wilson. Obviously, Adub played a key role in that decision.

Would being a 5 time Pro Bowler and 3 time 1st/2nd team NFL All Pro, working 4 years as a regional scout (while being “VP of Stuff”) and being in his second year as Director of Pro Scouting qualify Adrian Wilson as an attractive NFL GM candidate?

Well, let me ask everyone this...

Was John Lynch more qualified to be an NFL GM than Adrian Wilson when the 49ers hired him out from the FOX broadcasting booth in 2017?

How about Mike Mayock with the Raiders in 2018?

Adrian Wilson has been working in an NFL front office for 6 years now. Neither Lynch nor Mayock was ever an NFL scout, nor did either one of them work in an NFL front office prior to being named a GM.

Who will be the next TV guy to get a GM gig?

The two leading candidates, imo, are Daniel Jeremiah and Louis Riddick.

What do Jeremiah and Riddick have on their resumes that neither Lynch nor Mayock had???—-experience as an NFL scout. In fact, Riddick can take it one step further as he was the Eagles’ Director of Pro Scouting from 2010 to 2013.

Which TV pundit, do you think, lands the next TV to GM job?

Jeremiah or Riddick? (Please everyone answer this)

What TV pundits have over Adrian Wilson and all other aspiring GMs who are trying to work their way up through the ranks—-is media exposure and a national audience.

Yet—-why were John Lynch and Mike Mayock taken over all of the other head scouts in the NFL and over a more qualified TV candidate in Louis Riddick?

In terms of Adrian Wilson’s duties and what we know of his performance (he has received high praise from Bruce Arians, Steve Keim and Michael Bidwill—-plus a handsome promotion)—-I think he’s a strong GM candidate who is trying to get there the old fashioned way, by working his way up the ladder.

In a way I think the Cardinals are grooming Adrian Wilson to be a GM the way the Patriots were grooming Brian Flores to be a head coach—-by having them learn as many sides of the profession as possible.

But, I understand and appreciate Riggo’s questions because scouts do their work behind the scenes—-so perhaps it is presumptuous of me to suggest that Quintin Harris (Cardinals’ Director of Pro Personnel) and Adrian Wilson are promising young GM candidates.

But—-isn’t this why the Rooney Rule can be so valuable?

To know just how promising Adrian Wilson is, it would certainly require an interview or two, wouldn’t it?

Thank you, as always, for your excellent responses, Riggo. I especially thank you for encouraging me to write a book. I actually have one book published. Here is the link. If you or anyone would like to read the book, I would be more than happy to treat you to one via Amazon. Simply email me your address (waltermitchell@comcast.net) and I will order your book asap.

https://www.amazon.com/Stories-Tell-School-English-Students/dp/1477247998