Eric Bieniemy has been kicked out of line for the NFL head coaching carousel

Eric Bieniemy was undoubtedly one of the stars of the Chiefs’ victory in Super Bowl LVII. Yes, it may seem easy being the offensive coordinator for future Hall of Fame quarterback Patrick Mahomes, future Hall of Fame tight end Travis Kelce, and future Hall of Fame head coach Andy Reid, who calls for plays. offenses for Kansas City. But those legends and other members of the champion Chiefs were quick to point out the ways in which Bieniemy contributed to their second Super Bowl championship. Specifically, it was Bieniemy who identified the flaw in Philadelphia’s defensive tendencies, which led to two Chiefs touchdowns in their second-half return: backup quarterback Chad Henne said the athletic that Bieniemy noted that the Eagles seemed so nervous about the Chiefs doing a reaction sweep near the goal line that they would overcommit to stopping it. So the Chiefs managed two easy touchdowns on fake jet sweeps while coming back from a double-digit deficit to win the title:

Mahomes credited Bieniemy for making sure Jerick McKinnon knew how to slide just outside the end zone late in the fourth quarter, allowing the Chiefs to nearly run out the clock before kicking a game-winning field goal: “Although sometimes we get tired of them talking about those moments, they always seem to happen in the biggest games,” Mahomes said. “He makes sure we check details about them every week.” After the game, Mahomes named Bieniemy “one of a kind, one of the greatest”, while Reid called it “phenomenal” and “tremendous down the stretch”.

But his effusive praise once again wasn’t enough to land Bieniemy a head coaching job. None of the five teams with head coaching jobs chose Bieniemy. In fact, he wasn’t even seriously considered. Only the Colts scheduled an interview with him, and he was reportedly not one of the seven finalists who made it to a second round of interviews with Indianapolis. Apparently, the Broncos, Panthers and Texans didn’t need to interview Bieniemy because he was interviewed earlier in the hiring process for coaches they’d already fired.

Bieniemy has effectively been kicked off the NFL coaching carousel. The former All-American running back at Colorado was promoted to the offensive coordinator job at Kansas City in 2018, the year Patrick Mahomes first started at quarterback and began taking the NFL by storm. Every offseason from 2019 through 2022, Bieniemy was interviewed by at least two NFL teams. In 2021, six of the seven franchises with head coach vacancies brought in Bieniemy. It seemed inevitable that sooner or later he would receive the call. But this year, after the Chiefs led the NFL in points per game and yards per play, after they reinvented their offense after trading Tyreek Hill (WHO also praise Bieniemy, by the way), and after winning the Super Bowl by scoring 38 points on strong defense, he was passed over once again. Two teams still had coaching openings on Super Bowl Sunday; they were filled Tuesday with the two coordinators who lost to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. (Imagine watching the Chiefs score two walk-on touchdowns against the Eagles and thinking: Man, I have to hire the guy who didn’t adjust that defense.and not, Man, I have to hire the guy who masterminded that crime.but that’s what the Cardinals just did when they took Jonathan Gannon).

At this point in his career, Bieniemy has interviewed for head coaching positions 16 times by 15 NFL franchises, according to USA TodayData of . (The Jets have interviewed him twice.) Whatever process these teams use to select coaches other than Bieniemy isn’t working: Only three of the 16 coaches (Bruce Arians, Brandon Staley and Zac Taylor) selected Bieniemy since 2019 have made the playoffs. , while seven (Adam Gase, Urban Meyer, Nathaniel Hackett, David Culley, Brian Flores, Joe Judge and Matt Rhule) have been fired. You may notice that some of the coaches hired in Bieniemy’s place are on the list of the worst hires in NFL history.

Being the offensive coordinator for a team in the Super Bowl is generally a very good way to land an NFL head coaching job. Of the last nine OCs in the Super Bowl besides Bieniemy, both winners and losers, five are now NFL head coaches. (Brian Callahan remains the Bengals’ OC; Byron Leftwich has since been fired by the Buccaneers.) We could also include Zac Taylor, who landed the Bengals job after serving as the QB coach for the 2018 Rams. But Bieniemy has been the OC in three Super Bowls in four years, has won two rings, and still doesn’t have the title. head coach job.

The common argument against hiring Bieniemy is that his success is just a product of Reid. Normally, just being in the presence of a genius coach for an extended period of time is enough for a coordinator to land a head coaching job: if the genius liked this guy, he’s probably good, and maybe he’ll like it. I’ve caught some of that genius. That’s why we’ve seen 11 of Bill Belichick’s assistants become head coaches, including some who didn’t call the game and had little on their resumes other than working for the Patriots legend. Hell, we’ve even seen four of Sean McVay’s top assistants become head coaches. And this wasn’t much of a problem when hiring Bieniemy’s predecessors, former Chiefs offensive coordinators Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy. Both were hired as head coaches after working with Reid even though they weren’t primary playmakers; with his new teams, Nagy won NFL Coach of the Year and Pederson won a Super Bowl (although both were eventually fired). (A different Reid protégé, Mike Kafka, emerged as a hot head coaching candidate this year, interviewing for four of the five open positions. Kafka is currently the Giants’ OC, but previously worked with Reid and Bieniemy as coach of Chiefs QB, which means Bieniemy has been passed up in the coaching pecking order by his former subordinate.)

The reality is that teams hire offensive assistants who don’t call plays on a regular basis! Nick Sirianni didn’t call plays for the Colts when the Eagles signed him, and Taylor and Kevin O’Connell didn’t call plays for Sean McVay’s Rams, and those hires worked out pretty well for the Bengals and Vikings, respectively. And when the Eagles signed Andy Reid back in 1999, he had never called plays before either. (Hackett didn’t call plays for the Packers when he was signed by the Broncos, but he certainly beat his interview.)

Word in the league is that Bieniemy has bad interviews, whatever that means. Never mind that he was trying to prepare for interviews while in the middle of Super Bowl runs, or that he clearly won over every Chiefs player who runs for him: His inability to win over executives seemingly outweighs his skill at field. success. Presumably, there could also be some concerns among league owners about Bieniemy’s 2001 DUI arrest, his 1993 arrest on suspicion of harassing and assaulting a parking lot attendant working a Colorado football game, and a arrest as a college sophomore for a bar fight. These are real red flags, but it seems strange that these decades-old offenses cause so many NFL owners to finally draw a moral line in the sand.

Bieniemy is now interviewing with other teams to become their offensive coordinator, presumably so he can call plays and show he can succeed without Reid and Mahomes. He met with the Commanders on Thursday, and there is reportedly a “mutual interest.” To be clear, a lateral move like this is extremely rare: The last time an NFL offensive coordinator left one OC job for another without being fired or their head coach changed jobs was in 2018, five offseasons ago. when Matt LaFleur left the Rams for the Titans, where he was assigned playplaying duties. That it’s happening to a two-time Super Bowl champion days after winning a title is almost unbelievable. Bieniemy accomplished a lot as an offensive coordinator, but he’s still being asked to prove he can win without Reid, even though Reid’s previous offensive coordinators weren’t asked to do the same. And if he accepts the Washington job and fails to revamp a Commanders team that finished 24th in scoring last year, led by an aging and loss-prone Carson Wentz, the NFL will take it as proof that he won’t. it was good all the time.

Absent any legitimate-sounding reasons, Bieniemy is the only assistant trainer so successful that he didn’t earn a prominent position, one must wonder if Bieniemy is held to a higher standard because of his race. Only two of the 16 jobs Bieniemy interviewed for went to other black coaches, and one of them, Brian Flores, now has an active lawsuit against the NFL accusing the league of racial profiling. Decades of data shows that black head coaches are hired less often and fired more quickly. The league may have policies to promote diversity in the hiring of coaches and general managers, but these decisions are ultimately made by NFL owners, and there has never been a black one. (Also, maybe we should call them “governors” or “members” instead of owners? The NFL doesn’t want them to sound… well, you know.)

Bieniemy’s inclusion in so many coaching searches is supposed to be a sign that he’s been given opportunities in the league’s supposed meritocracy. Now, years of bogus listing and interviews that went nowhere have effectively locked him out of the head coaching market. The fact that so many teams have rejected Bieniemy has become glaring proof that he must be a bad candidate, even though he has continued to shine with the Chiefs and the coaches hired in his place have generally failed. . (One more time: Adam Gase, Urban Meyer, Nathaniel Hackett, and Joe Judge were picked over him.) Nearly half the league has made the decision to bypass Bieniemy, and the rest of the league has decided to take those teams’ bad decisions as gospel.

Bieniemy has been one of the top coaching candidates in football for years, but the NFL has essentially stopped considering him as a potential head coach. We’re supposed to believe this happened because of resume rather than race, but we’ve seen the actual results of NFL head coach searches. It’s always about qualifications until the most qualified candidate is black.

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