TThere were no saucer-eyed glances here, no hems or blinks, no feverish talk about bite anyone’s kneecaps. But again, Eric Bieniemy has always been comfortable in the spotlight for a man who never looks for him. Broadcast from Kansas City for his Super Bowl media day press conference earlier this week, the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator had the usual vision of being great, taking turns relating his strategies and general philosophies about the game to a intense yet understated passion that would make any listener want to walk through a wall for it, whether they play soccer or not. Really, he was looking for everyone as NFL head coach material. That it is not yet is a sham.
After a hiring cycle that I saw the black coaches left on the touchline, this was supposed to be a culminating season for Bieniemy, the most popular assistant in the NFL for three seasons in a row. But this year, eight head coach vacancies came and went with the 51-year-old New Orleans native getting some interviews but no offers. Not that I’m bitter or even disappointed.
“I didn’t ask to be the poster boy for this particular situation,” he says naturally. “We have had a great success in which I was recognized for interviewing me for some jobs. And so those interviews, for whatever reason, haven’t hired me, which is fine. When all is said and done, I have a responsibility to the Kansas City Chiefs and our players to make sure we are mentally and physically ready for game day. “
further Urban meyer (three-time college champion now in charge of the Jacksonville Jaguars) and Robert Saleh (a conference championship-winning defensive coordinator now in charge of the New York Jets), the hiring pool was a who’s who of who’s that. There’s a new kid in Philly who turns words in equations, that other guy in Detroit who may need a rabies vaccine. Is enough to do Adam Gase blinks. David Culley, a former colleague of Bieniemy in Kansas City, now in charge at Houston, was the only black coach hired this offseason, and even that was made as a concession to the team’s disgruntled franchise quarterback for not bringing Bieniemy in. first place. .
After tying a record with eight coaches of color to start the 2018 season, the NFL is down to just five. Take Saleh (the league’s first Muslim head coach) and Rivera (the only Hispanic American) out of the mix, and that leaves Cullen, Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin and Miami’s Brian Flores as the only black head coaches in a workplace where 70% of gamers look like them.
“We talk about it a lot,” says Frank Clark, the Chiefs’ Pro Bowl pass rusher. “We all know that the head coach runs the team. Why don’t we see more black coaches in charge? It could go back to our roots. They can be things that are happening in our present time. Some [team owners] You might be afraid to take that first step and give that man that platform. We talk about equality all the time, but is it really the same? “
Rooney’s rule he was supposed to fix this. But instead of honoring the 2003 initiative, which was intended to expand the potential hiring pool while providing black assistants with much-needed interviewing experience, executives on NFL teams primarily treat it as a mouth-watering measure that they reluctantly indulge in before opting for the “safest” bet. – probably a “Type Sean McVay”, a young, white coach with a sharp haircut (though few of them happen to have McVay’s offensive smarts). When the Fritz Pollard Alliance and other advocacy groups pointed to the dramatically higher win percentages of black head coaches like Art Shell, Dennis Green and Tony Dungy, executives on the NFL team lamented the lack of black assistants on the offensive side. of the ball even while boxing. most of those prospects, including Bieniemy, in dead-end jobs as running back coaches.
Bieniemy simply gives these same team executives an excuse to do what they do best: contradict themselves. So he was a young devil with a long sheet of criminal records. Aren’t you the same outfits they say You can’t win with Boy Scouts? So Bieniemy doesn’t call the Kansas City works? Reid credits him for doing just about everything else, from running meetings and practices to writing cheeky plays like the number “Four Tops” Reid jumped on the 49ers in last year’s Super Bowl. So Bieniemy inherited a unique quarterback talent in a generation? So did Kliff Kingsbury. He had Patrick Mahomes from 2014 to 2016 at Texas Tech and barely managed to get through. one winning season. After two more losing seasons, Kingsbury was fired in November 2018 after going 35-40 in six seasons. Two months later, the Arizona Cardinals named him head coach at age 39. At the end of the day, well, he was the McVay type too.
For the first time in history, the Super Bowl will feature two black offensive coordinators: Bieniemy and Byron Leftwich of the Buccaneers, a former franchise quarterback who is also being underrated for his work with the other star quarterback in this game. And to hear the DC native say it, I would never have been in this position if Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, an often-overlooked assistant in his day, hadn’t pulled Leftwich off the golf course five years ago. to be a training intern. in Arizona.
Today, Leftwich is one of three black staff coordinators who, in addition to Todd Bowles, the former Jets head coach responsible for the Bucs’ best defense, also has a woman training on the defensive line and the daughter of an Iranian refugee. Weight Room Coaching with a PhD in Physical Therapy.
“This is not the norm,” says Leftwich, who did not get a head coach interview this cycle. “It is a blessing that [Arians] has the sight that has. I just hope that nobody believes that he is giving us something. Everyone is obviously doing their job. The fact is that we are Here – with the players putting ourselves in a position to have the opportunity to win this football match ”.
Super Bowl LV should have been the kind of coach poaching party that sparks comparisons to New England’s two-decade brain drain under Bill Belichick. Instead, it is an indictment of a league that speaks out of both sides of its mouth while regularly betraying spectacular worker bees like Bieniemy, who, despite vast amounts of evidence and testimonies to the contrary, has actually been labeled a poor interviewee. If he’s lucky, Reid might retire and Bieniemy ends up on the Chiefs’ couch. But with the way the Chiefs under Reid are rolling that day it may be a bit far off.
Unfortunately, all Bieniemy can do at the moment is her job. It’s a shame that when you’re a black coach in the NFL, doing that job well means that you rarely, if ever, get a fair shot at a better one.
“One thing I heard Todd Bowles say is that you never want to be recognized for your race or your color for what you do,” says Bieniemy, who has the opportunity to join Norv Turner, Gary Kubiak and Charlie Weis on the short list of offensive coordinators of the modern era who have won titles on the run. “You want to be recognized for how good a coach you are, or what a men’s leader you are, and the influence you can have on the people in that building who work with you and for you. Those are the things that matter.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism