RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks chief executive Tod Leiweke took issue Tuesday with criticism that he was less than genuine in interviewing minority candidates before hiring Pete Carroll as the team's coach.
Speaking moments after he introduced Carroll as the eighth coach in the Seahawks' 34-year history, Leiweke said he offered the team president job to former Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy last month. The offer came soon after the Seahawks forced Tim Ruskell to resign as president and general manager Dec. 3.
"That's not to defend myself with the Rooney Rule. Tony would have made a heck of a president," said Leiweke, who has been doing the interviews for the team's coach, GM and president vacancies on behalf of Seahawks owner Paul Allen. "That was the first call I made."
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Leiweke said Dungy considered the offer for one night before telling him no thanks.
The NFL's Rooney Rule requires teams to interview minority candidates. The rule, which was introduced after the 2002 season and became mandatory one year later, applies to the hiring of head coaches and senior football executives.
Leiweke said his interview with Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on Saturday in Minnesota lasted four hours -- then they watched the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys playoff game together that night. Leiweke cited it as further proof that he adhered to the league's minority-hiring initiative.
"I went to see Leslie and I saw him in good faith," Leiweke said. "When I went to Minnesota, I was not sure we would get it done with Pete. There were significant issues."
Carroll joined Leiweke in saying reports that he had a preliminary deal with the Seahawks as early as Friday were wrong.
Leiweke said the issues included whom the Seahawks were targeting as their new GM and whom Carroll wanted to bring from USC to his staff in Seattle. Those issues were worked out during a face-to-face meeting in California on Sunday.
"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.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Saturday that the Seahawks had complied with the Rooney Rule through Leiweke's interview of Frazier. Leiweke said he was "hugely impressed" with Frazier and is certain he will be an NFL head coach.
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Omar Khan, a contract administrator with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was interviewing with Carroll and Leiweke on Tuesday afternoon. New York Giants personnel man Marc Ross, also a minority candidate, will interview over the next two days, as will former Tennessee Titans GM Floyd Reese and current Green Bay Packers executive John Schneider.
Compliance with the Rooney Rule is overseen by the Fritz Pollard Alliance. Its chairman, John Wooten, played 10 seasons (1959-68) in the NFL as a guard -- back when there were no minority head coaches.
Wooten said he doesn't understand the criticism of the system, noting that Leiweke and Carroll himself assured him they had no deal at the time Frazier was interviewed. Wooten also believes the Redskins properly handled things with Gray.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press