Dungy thinks teams wink at Rooney Rule

Recent minority interviews for NFL coaching jobs in Washington and Seattle under the Rooney Rule have raised questions whether the spirit of the rule has been violated.

Former Colts coach Tony Dungy wonders about the process used by the Redskins, who interviewed assistant coach Jerry Gray for the head coaching position last month even though Jim Zorn still held the job.

The Seahawks met with Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on Saturday amid reports that Southern California coach Pete Carroll would be hired regardless of how impressive Frazier was.

“That is not what the Rooney Rule is supposed to be, (that) you make up your mind and then interview a candidate for it anyway just to satisfy the rule,” said Dungy, who retired from coaching last year and now is an analyst on NBC’s “Football Night in America” show.

“If the Jerry Gray situation is the way it has been described as happening, I don’t think it was fair. I don’t think I would ever interview for a job if my boss was not out of the job. I don’t blame Jerry; it’s the position he was put in, if it happened that way.”

Yet Dungy encourages all candidates to interview – under the proper procedures.

“The idea of the rule is to slow down the process and get teams to do their homework and investigate a lot of candidates, not just minority candidates,” he said. “You went through the process, and in doing that sometimes you uncover people.”

That’s what happened when the Steelers hired Mike Tomlin over assistants Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm in 2007.

The Vikings declined to make Frazier available for comment Sunday. In the past, he has said he supports the Rooney Rule process, which was introduced after the 2002 season and became mandatory a year later.

Vikings coach Brad Childress said Sunday only the interviewee can determine the legitimacy of the talks.

“It’s really for the guy that’s being interviewed to decide what he feels like the intentions are,” Childress said.

Compliance with the Rooney Rule is overseen by the Fritz Pollard Alliance, whose chairman is John Wooten, a 10-year (1959-68) NFL offensive lineman.

Wooten said he believes the Redskins handled things properly with Gray.

“Do we have to fight and safeguard against shenanigans?” Wooten said. “Yes. People try to play as close to the line as they can.”

Ratings best since 1999

The first day of the NFL playoffs drew the best preliminary television ratings in a decade.

The Cowboys’ 34-14 win over the Eagles on NBC on Saturday night earned a 19.6 overnight rating and 32 share, the highest for a first-round game since the 1999 season.

The Jets’ 24-14 win over the Bengals drew a 16.9/31, the best for the early game in 10 years. The average for the two games was up 12 percent from last season.

Extra points

As expected, Philadelphia Eagles general manager Tom Heckert agreed to join Mike Holmgren in Cleveland and become the Browns’ new GM. … New England cornerback Shawn Springs, a former Seahawks star, suffered a head injury in the first half and didn’t return against Baltimore.