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Why isn’t Eric Bieniemy a head coach yet?

Eric Bieniemy has proven everything, and he’s still not a head coach.

Super Bowl LVII - Kansas City Chiefs v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Eric Bieniemy still isn’t a head coach. The NFL hiring cycle ended Tuesday afternoon with the Arizona Cardinals finalizing a deal with Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. It’s a fascinating contrast, considering three days ago Bieniemy was credited as being the architect behind an offense that dominated Gannon’s defense in the second half of the Super Bowl, winning a second ring in the process.

This coaching cycle ends with five head coaches being brought on, only one of whom is black. The league continues to offer opportunities and leaps of faith to white coaches without glowing resumes, with excuses why Bieniemy hasn’t gotten his shot yet. It comes less than a year after Chiefs head coach Andy Reid asked league owners why his offensive coordinator hasn’t been given opportunities.

Every time questions are raised about Bieniemy not getting a chance there are nebulous, third-hand rumors about him not having a good relationship with players in the lock room. Much of this is based off an argument with Patrick Mahomes, which Mahomes himself downplayed and brushed off.

When it comes to Bieniemy it’s as if people have never heard of players and coaches having friction before.

Part of this is because of Andy Reid, but that’s a horrible justification

One of the biggest potential reasons Bieniemy hasn’t gotten a chance is because he’s stuck in Reid’s orbit. Too often the Chiefs coach is given all the credit for Kansas City’s success, with Bieniemy being treated as an afterthought.

Reid knows this as well as anyone, hinting at times that it might be best for Bieniemy to leave and pursue a job with a different organization so it can truly become “his show,” without being stuck in Reid’s shadow. While this is a correct assertion, it’s ridiculous how this is applied to Bieniemy in isolation — or how in particular it keeps being applied to black coordinators.

This same reasoning was given as to why Byron Leftwich did get more opportunities following Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl win, with Arians largely being viewed as the architect. Meanwhile offensive coordinators the likes of Shane Steichen, Josh McDaniels and Nathanial Hackett all received jobs, none of whom being inexorably linked to their head coaches in the same way.

Bieniemy shattered any doubts of his ability this season

A routine critique of the Chiefs offense as a whole in recent years is this idea of “how tough could it be?” Essentially foisting credit on Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill and wondering how much work had to be done on the offensive side with an offensive talent base like that.

This season shattered those doubts. Not only did the Chiefs have their best offensive season under Mahomes, but they were forced to complete adapt their system without Hill and play a very different game. If you watch Kansas City a year ago to now you’ll see just how much work was done re-writing the playbook and modifying schemes to incorporate swing passes to running backs and utilize Kelce more to mitigate the loss of Hill’s YAC ability.

On top of this Bieniemy proved he’s a master of in-game adjustment during the Super Bowl, as he devised the second half plan to attack the Eagles’ defense differently following halftime — which opened up the game and led to the Chiefs’ winning. Immediately following the game Reid gave all the praise to his offensive coordinator for flipping the script.

Bieniemy remains the best offensive coordinator in the NFL, but keeps getting passed over

This part of the discussion is tricky, because the offensive coaches hired during this cycle made sense for what teams were looking for. Shane Steichen’s strong approach to the ground game marries well with the Colts’ roster, the Broncos needed a superstar head coach to generate buzz with only Sean Payton fitting the bill, while Carolina were desperate for head coaching experience following Matt Rhule, necessitating Frank Reich.

However, when we go back a year it’s here we really see the disparate nature between how Bieniemy was treated by NFL teams compared to other coaches. In 2022 we saw Josh McDaniels, Mike McDaniel, Nathanial Hackett, Kevin O’Connell and Brian Daboll all land jobs from offensive coordinator positions, and arguably only Daboll had a resume that stood up to Bieniemy’s.

That’s not to say all those coaches are bad. Hell, of that group really only Josh McDaniels and Hackett didn’t deserve getting a chance — but the routine scrutiny Bieniemy is put under simply doesn’t apply to other coaches. It’s as if overwhelming justification is made for why Bieniemy isn’t worth hiring, instead of the obvious: Nobody is a better offensive mind in the NFL.

What’s next for Eric Bieniemy?

Bieniemy signed a one-year deal to stay in Kansas City for the 2022 season, meaning effectively he’s free to take another job — which many believe he’ll do. Naturally the Chiefs would welcome him back openly, but at this point the formula isn’t working, because he’s not getting a chance to be a head coach.

The bizarre element to this is that there’s clearly some form of bias working against him. If this was a fair process you could see him going to another team, having offensive success, and proving he didn’t just win because of Mahomes and Reid. However, if this was a fiar process he’d already have a job based on what he’s proven.

There are some offensive jobs still open. One to watch would be in Carolina. The last box to check would be developing a rookie quarterback, and the Panthers already have a hell of an offensive braintrust in place minus a coordinator to run the show. If Bieniemy is able to step in and have success turning around the team there wouldn’t be a single justification for him not getting a head coaching job in 2024.

Of course, Bieniemy could still return to the Chiefs, win more, and hope this cycle finally ends — but at this point the league seems wholly unwilling to give this offensive genius a shot. It just goes to show how dumb a lot of people in NFL leadership positions are.