Vikings’ Frazier Wonders About NFL Tokenism

Even though Frazier is a better NFL coach than Pete Carroll.

By Drew Magary
|  Tuesday, Aug 10, 2010  |  Updated 4:15 PM EDT
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Vikings’ Frazier Wonders About NFL Tokenism

NFL

MINNEAPOLIS - 2009: Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by NFL Photos)

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When Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier interviewed for the Seattle Seahawks’ head coaching job earlier this year, it was a poorly kept secret that Seattle was all but locked in to hire Pete Carroll as their next head coach.

At the time, Frazier diplomatically sidestepped any suggestion that he was interviewed as a token minority candidate, but now he hints to John Shipley at the Pioneer Press that he suspected pretty much the same thing everyone else was suspecting.

”I can't answer for ownership, you know, what they were looking for and what they wanted out of the interviews. But I went into it believing each one would be a legitimate interview."

And did he come out feeling they were legitimate interviews?

"Um, I don't want to say which team, but one of them I was a little concerned about, and we went right down to the wire about whether I should even do the interview," he said. "On one of them, I left just wondering."

It doesn’t take a genius to know that Frazier is referring to the Seahawks. For his part, Frazier still believes in the usefulness of the Rooney Rule, which has good intentions but can sometimes lead to awkward situations where one team has its heart set on a certain coach and has to put a black coach through the paces just to be compliant.

There are currently six black head coaches in the NFL right now. It’s a decent sized number. It’s not fantastic, but it’s decent. You might think it’s time to retire the Rooney Rule as a result, but I’d argue against that.

Progress isn’t always an absolute upward curve. Just because there are six black coaches now, doesn’t mean it’ll always stay that way. In fact, I guarantee you it won’t, because Lovie Smith is soooo fired by December. Without the rule in place, the league could easily revert back to an all-white coaching environment. You only need to take a look at the disgraceful number of black head coaches in college football (four of 119 teams). Trust me, it can all go backwards.

The Rooney Rule has its faults, particularly when it creates a situation like the one Frazier went through. But it’s needed precisely because of that. Frazier is a better NFL coach than Pete Carroll. I promise you, whenever Frazier gets hired (and he will), he’ll have a better record than Carroll will with Seattle. The fact that he never even had a chance with them is why the rule still has value. Because if we live in a world where Leslie Frazier can lose out on a job to Pete Carroll and Chan Gailey, something is still sorely amiss.

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