Stanford Cardinal head coach David Shaw before the game against the Washington State Cougars at Stanford Stadium.

We all know that the Los Angeles Chargers want to hire Jim Harbaugh as their next head coach.

The Michigan Man, who interviewed with the NFL team a few days ago, may still return to the Wolverines for another season (before yet another dalliance with the NFL next year), but the consensus seems to be that if he wants to coach the Chargers, he’ll coach the Chargers.

Then there’s the Rooney Rule. Created with good intentions in 2003 to encourage NFL owners to hire more Black head coaches (and since expanded to encourage more ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs), its need has only been made more imperative in recent years. Unfortunately, rules are only as effective as those who enforce them, and NFL owners have often used the Rooney Rule as a formality more than an actual guideline for genuine consideration.

While a case could be made that the trajectory of minority head coach hirings has improved (following the Brian Flores lawsuit and egregious attempts to skirt the guidelines like the Texans’ Josh McCown pursuit), this process remains cyclical and the work continues.

All of which brings us to Thursday when the Chargers announced that they had completed an interview with former Stanford head coach David Shaw for their head coaching vacancy. Given the history of NFL teams’ Rooney Rule flippancy and the presumption that the team wants to hire Harbaugh, the news was met with many assumptions that they had no intention of actually hiring Shaw (or Buffalo Bills DC Leslie Frazier, who also interviewed for the role) but only interviewed him to meet the minimum requirements.

Those assumptions were reinforced by the way that two NFL insiders reported the news.

“Chargers completed an interview with David Shaw for their head coaching job,” wrote ESPN’s Adam Schefter on X. “They’re now in compliance with the Rooney Rule.”

“With Leslie Frazier and David Shaw having interviewed in-person the Chargers are now Rooney Rule compliant,” wrote SI’s Albert Breer on X.

What both reporters wrote was factually correct. But that they both felt that Rooney Rule compliance was the most important piece of information about these two accomplished football coaches implied that it was understood by all parties these were token interviews. And it also seemed to imply that NFL insiders like Schefter and Breer were happy to facilitate that message.

The wording rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, including those in the media world.

For his part, Breer responded to the backlash and offered an apology, saying that it was “sloppy and insensitive” to frame the interviews in that manner.

“Sloppy and insensitive by me to frame it this way. Shaw’s a good coach and good dude, and Leslie is too. Obviously a lot of focus on one guy getting that job, but it’s on me that I tweeted like the rule is the only significance of the interview. My bad.”

Coincidentally or not, Schefter followed up his initial tweet by adding further context about Shaw and his bona fides. Whether or not he was doing so in the face of backlash to his initial post is unclear, though we know that he’s not always the biggest fan of offering up apologies.

Ultimately, the problem lies not with NFL reporters or even the Rooney Rule itself. Rather, it persists so long as NFL owners continue to treat the rule as something to be worked around rather than as an opportunity to help fix a systematic problem that goes back to the beginning of the league (and beyond).

In the meantime, media members will do themselves a favor by pausing and thinking critically about their language choices when reporting on Black head coaches and the NFL opportunities they receive, lest they want to be seen as part of the problem.

[Adam Schefter, Albert Breer, Los Angeles Chargers]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to