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NFL announces changes to Rooney Rule; Eric Bieniemy weighs in

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Bieniemy: “The only thing I can control is where we’re at right now and what we’re doing”

NFL: Super Bowl LIV-AFC Champions-Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL officially announced changes to its Rooney Rule on Tuesday. The league will now require clubs to interview at least two external minority candidates for head coaching openings and at least one minority candidate for any coordinator job.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who reportedly interviewed for seven head coaching positions over the last two offseasons, commented on the tweak via a Zoom conference call on Tuesday.

“My overall reaction is going to remain the same,” he explained. “I am blessed and fortunate to be placed in this opportunity and been given this situation. One thing, as a coach, you always want to be judged based upon your own merit. At the end of the day, the best coach is going to be hired. That’s what I do. I coach football, but when it’s all said and done with, I can’t control all the [uncontrollables]. The only thing I can control is where we’re at right now and what we’re doing, and that’s making sure that we are mentally prepared for whenever we have that opportunity to get back on the field together.”

With Bieniemy’s guidance of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs finished first in points (35.3) and yards per game (425.6) for the 2018 regular season. They were fifth in points per game (28.2) and sixth in yards per game (379.2) in 2019.

“When you get a guy like EB, who puts in the time, who is a great leader of players and men and can really control and have a presence in any room that he walks in, you understand why these other teams are looking at him to be their head coach,” Patrick Mahomes said in late December, as the Chiefs were pushing toward the Super Bowl. “We are obviously focusing on our goal right now, but we know with who he is and how he operates, he’ll have the opportunities to go places and have success.”

But it was not to be, as the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and Carolina Panthers all went in different directions.


Anti-tampering policy changed

The league also announced changes to its current anti-tampering policy on Tuesday.

Teams could previously deny assistant coaches opportunities to interview with new teams for coordinator roles. This reportedly happened this offseason with Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka, whose services had been sought by Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Formerly, football executives working their way up could also have been prevented from interviewing for an assistant general manager job. With the new rules, this is no longer the case.

“Assistant coaches are going to have an opportunity to interview,” said Bieniemy. “I think that’s huge; I think that’s huge across the board. Regardless of skin color, doesn’t make a difference. Now, you get an opportunity to interview the best football coach for that particular position... With all this discussion being brought to the table, it just opened up doors for many different people.”

Bieniemy was also pleased the NFL passed a measure for a full-time coaching fellowship program geared toward minority candidates, saying there are plenty of candidates that are “more than qualified.”

“My job is to make sure I’m focused on what we’re doing, but yes, I am happy that that was passed, so those guys can have an opportunity,” he said. “But understand that, hell, I got a job to do. We’re focused on what we need to get better at at this particular time, and what’s going to make us the best team when we have an opportunity to hit the ground running.”