I rushed to judgment last week when I said minority coaches were correct in their refusal to interview with the Detroit Lions because Steve Mariucci was the favorite of team CEO and president Matt Millen.
Those coaches blew an opportunity to introduce themselves to the decision-makers who hire and fire.
With the exception of Dennis Green - who twice led the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC championship game - the other, lesser-known minority candidates made a strategic mistake.
Even if they knew they weren't going to get the Lions' job, they missed the point.
The NFL's response to civil-rights attorneys Johnnie Cochran and Cyrus Mehri that teams interview minorities for each coaching job is significant only if minority candidates welcome the process with open arms.
There may be a veteran coordinator out there who believes he's been ignored for other head-coaching jobs. Maybe there's an up-and-coming position coach who feels unappreciated.
None of that really matters if they bypass the opportunity to rub shoulders with other owners, team presidents and general managers in charge of hiring because they perceive they're not the top candidate for a particular job.
Interviewing for a coaching vacancy - even one that's targeted for someone else - is an excellent opportunity for a coach to get his foot in the door.
Owners and team executives almost always hire a friend or someone they've worked with previously.
Millen was going to hire Mariucci, an excellent coach who happens to be a friend, no matter what. He trusts him. He knows him.
Millen hired Mariucci after firing Marty Mornhinweg, who didn't have Mariucci's credentials but is also a friend.
Millen knows Mornhinweg personally, but it would be foolish to say that Mornhinweg, who had no head-coaching experience, was the best candidate for the Lions.
Minority candidates can make themselves more familiar to NFL decision-makers by joining the interview process, even the token interviews now insisted upon by the NFL. They shouldn't give teams an excuse not to hire minorities because of a belief there aren't enough quality candidates.
At least one minority coach - Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, for example - should have interviewed with the Lions. By going through the process, Millen and other decision-makers would have gotten to know Lewis.
They'd be putting a name to a face and a coaching philosophy. They could bring up Lewis' name at the next owners meeting and begin the process of developing a comfort level for targeting Lewis for future openings.
In baseball, Omar Minaya interviewed with six teams before he was hired by the Expos last year as the majors' first Hispanic general manager. Minaya understood that some of his interviews were only to satisfy baseball's mandate to interview minority candidates.
Despite the San Francisco 49ers' decision to hire Dennis Erickson, the agent for New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell - one of two minorities to interview for the position - predicted Cottrell will emerge as the leading candidate for the next job that comes open because he was a finalist in San Francisco.
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