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THE MOJ: Case of Eric Bieniemy drawing eyes to the NFL’s lack of black head coaches

In a league where more than 60% of players are black less than 10% of teams have black head coaches
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FILE - Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy addresses the media during an NFL football news conference at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., in this Jan. 23, 2020, file photo. Bieniemy has become the cause celebre when it comes to minority assistants who have been denied the opportunity to become head coaches in the NFL. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

The National Football League does many things exceptionally well.

Giving African-Americans an opportunity to become a head coach in the league isn’t one of them.

This issue was brought to the forefront yet again with the curious case of Eric Bieniemy.

Bieniemy was the talented offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs who this past weekend accepted a job with the Washington Commanders as their new offensive coordinator/assistant head coach. Although some are calling this a lateral move, Bieniemy will have more responsibilities in D.C. and something he never had in Kansas City – a multi-year deal.

Despite being a part of two Super Bowl championship teams with the Chiefs, Bieniemy got passed over again this off-season for a head coaching gig as five teams decided to go in a different direction.

What adds even more fuel to this fire is that the two coordinators from the Philadelphia Eagles – the team the Chiefs beat in Super Bowl LVII – got head coaching jobs as defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was named the new boss of the Arizona Cardinals while offensive coordinator Shane Steichen filled the vacancy in Indianapolis.

Needless to say, these developments got plenty of reaction on social media with former players and NFL insiders questioning why Bieniemy was overlooked.

Former Pittsburgh Steeler and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark was an example of some of the outrage found on Twitter.

“Sounds good. Be a losing coordinator in the Super Bowl & be a head coach in 2 days. Congrats Gannon & Steichen. Go to 5 AFC Chips, 3 Super Bowls, win 2 rings & hope for a lateral move to prove yourself all over again.. Get sh*t on again Bienemy. Not sure what dude did, but…” tweeted Clark.

Former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin was just as vocal.

“Eric Bieniemy having to leave Kansas City to “prove himself” after WINNING 2 SUPER BOWLS as the Offensive Coordinator is a TRAVESTY. A position coach who wasn’t the Offensive Coordinator and a Special Teams Coach have been hired as Head Coaches in the last 5 years. HOW SWAY?” tweeted Griffin, now an ESPN analyst as well.

Despite the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when they have an opening for a head coach, a general manager or a coordinator, the NFL is under constant criticism for only having three black head coaches in the 32-team league despite over 60% of its players being black.

Hiring minority coaches in the NFL has been an issue for decades and came to the forefront when former Miami Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores sued the league last February for discrimination against black coaches and executives.

Flores was recently hired as the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator and declined to comment on the lawsuit during his introductory press conference stating that the case was ongoing.

As for Bieniemy, he will meet with the Washington media on Thursday and will certainly be asked about his thoughts on why he is not a head coach in the NFL.

The fact of the matter is that Bieniemy has been interviewed 16 times for head coaching vacancies and has come up empty.

Does the NFL have an issue when it comes to hiring black head coaches?

Without a doubt.

I also believe that NFL teams will do whatever it takes to win.

All you have to do is look at how many players received ‘second chances’ because teams knew that those players would increase their odds of winning football games.

One visit to NFLarrest.com will provide you with plenty of examples of individuals who were arrested multiple times but continued to play in the NFL.

Why?

Because in the NFL, it’s all about winning.

For whatever reason, organizations don’t believe Bieniemy is the man to coach their team.

As easy as it is to blame discrimination, you have to believe that there is more to it than that.

Ask yourself this question. In a win-at-all-costs league, why wouldn’t you hire Bieniemy given his resume while at the same time scoring a tremendous PR coup?

Yes, there are reports that Bieniemy doesn’t interview well.

Then there is the fact that Kansas City Head Coach Andy Reid is the primary play-caller for the Chiefs, not Bieniemy, thus taking away from the latter’s success. Yet that didn’t hurt Matt Nagy and Doug Pederson — both former Chiefs offensive coordinators — in their quests to become head coaches.

Bieniemy has had a quartet of off-field legal incidents but the latest occurred in 2001 – over twenty years ago.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, one of the top NFL insiders around, has even suggested that “some owners may fear that hiring Bieniemy would prompt a very vocal 30 percent of the fan base to suggest that the team has surrendered to the “woke mob,” in lieu of hiring the best person for the job.”

Yes, Bieniemy probably has to meet higher standards in the hiring process than others do but you have to believe that if he would give you the best chance to win on Sundays, he would get a head coaching job.

Whatever the reason, Eric Bieniemy is on the outside looking in when it comes to the NFL head coaching fraternity.

If he can’t get a head coaching job after his second Super Bowl win, you wonder if he ever will.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.

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