While all NFL coaching staffs go through it, there may be one head coach that is the most familiar with the process of assistant coaches going off to interview for external head coach positions.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is known for his expansive coaching tree. He has had a countless number of assistants move on from under his wing to take the head role of another organization. The first two offensive coordinators of his Chiefs tenure are now head coaches: Doug Pederson with the Philadelphia Eagles and Matt Nagy with the Chicago Bears.
So why hasn’t current offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy been offered a head coach position yet?
Entering his third season as the offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl champion and offensively-driven Chiefs, Bieniemy absolutely has the resume. With 12 years as an NFL assistant coach, he has the experience. Listen to how his players talk about him and how he talks to the media, and you’ll see that he has the respect and the temperament. He has had multiple head coaching interviews in each of the past two offseasons.
So what’s the hang-up?
This offseason, Bieniemy has become the de facto face of the NFL’s Rooney Rule.
The rule makes it a requirement for every franchise to interview one minority candidate when they are hiring for a head coach or general manager position. Just this week, the league expanded the requirement to two minority candidates needing to be interviewed for a head coach position while one must be interviewed for one of three coordinator spots if there is a vacancy.
While the league rule is made with good intentions, Andy Reid pointed out some of its flaws during his time with the media on Friday morning.
“You’re in there for only a couple hours with the owners. Do they really get to know you in that time?” Reid questioned. “I wish there was an extended period of time that they could visit with you. Owners are always having to cram in these interviews, but to actually have enough time to get to know what the person is all about, I think that becomes an important thing.
There is the big issue with the Rooney Rule.
Are teams bringing in minority candidates only to meet the requirement? Are they being legitimately considered for the job? It can’t be proven one way or the other, but there are only three current African American NFL head coaches.
Reid continued about the importance of spending more time with the candidate than just the interview.
“The more you’re with Eric Bieniemy, the more you appreciate him, understand him, and know that he’s a great leader of men,” Reid emphasized. “Does an owner actually have that time or are we rushing — and some of it’s our schedules because of the playoffs — are we rushing in like ‘okay I got to get these three interviews done. Boom boom boom.’ Does that owner actually see the worth in that person interviewing?”
The lack of interview time is an issue for a candidate of any race — but in an offensive-minded league, only two offensive coordinators in 2019 were African American.
In the past two offseasons, a handful of offensive-minded coaches were hired as head coaches. None of them match the resume Bieniemy has put together, but they got the job regardless.
He has been interviewed plenty of times in the last two years — but it doesn’t sound like Bieniemy has been given serious consideration.
“Eric’s had opportunities to interview but it’s always a bang-bang thing, you get a couple hours and then you’re out. How well do you get to know a guy in a couple hours?”
You won’t hear Chiefs fans get too upset. They are returning their offensive coordinator that has the trust of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the creativeness to design a play based on the 1948 Rose Bowl. A coach with the ultimate respect of his players — proven by how him and tight end Travis Kelce handled an overly-passionate moment on the sideline between them during Week 5 of 2020.
It’s very obvious that Bieniemy has earned the chance to lead a team from the head coaching position.
“Keep being you,” Reid advised. “That’s always the most important thing and it’s gotten him to this point. He’ll have an opportunity as a head coach.”
Maybe a second Super Bowl ring on his finger will force an NFL team to give him a shot.