ATLANTA — Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy scoffed at the idea that not being a playcaller cost him an opportunity to become a head coach after he interviewed for four head-coaching vacancies.
At this week’s NFL Quarterback Coaching Summit hosted by the NFL and Black College Football Hall of Fame, Bieniemy said he relished the opportunity to interview with the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins. Only one of the eight teams with new head coaches hired a minority, as the Dolphins selected Brian Flores.
“Here’s my response about the playcalling: coach (Andy) Reid has always done it his way, and that’s how historically he’s done it because he’s Coach Reid,” Bieniemy told ESPN. “He has a beautiful mind, and we all work hand-in-hand together. And he gives me the green light to do a number of things. I have input. I do scripts. I get the install. There are a number of things that I do.”
As Jason Reid of The Undefeated reported in January, Reid said Bieniemy had been “unbelievable” as coordinator, while MVP Patrick Mahomes called Bieniemy a “special coach” and a guy who has helped him a ton.
“Do I talk to the quarterback? Yes,” Bieniemy said. “(Reid) is reciting what he wants me to particularly tell Pat to call. So if people want to make a big deal about that, so be it. The experience that I’ve gotten, understanding how an offensive system works, the organization, how to prepare it, how to get guys going and moving in one direction for one cause, that’s what this is about.”
Although Bieniemy’s focus remains on his current duties with the Chiefs, it seems likely that he’ll receive a head-coaching opportunity based on his strong reputation. The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which oversees compliance with the Rooney Rule requiring teams to interview minority candidates, backed Bieniemy, 49, throughout the interview process.
“John Wooten and the Fritz Pollard Alliance, I thought they did a hell of a job; they gave me an opportunity,” Bieniemy said. “Obviously, Coach Reid has given me an opportunity. And I think my interviewing process went about as good as it could go.
“Also, it gave me the experience moving forward knowing that, ‘You know what, this is my first go-around. Second go-around, if I’m blessed and fortunate to be placed in that situation, I’ll be that much better.’ But as far as a head-coaching position is concerned, right now we’re focused on the season. Obviously, we want to go out and do some things that’s going to help us to continue to have success. Then if somebody wants to give me a chance, I’ll be willing, ready, and waiting for that opportunity.”
Marvin Lewis and Hue Jackson, two former black NFL head coaches, both expressed support for Bieniemy.
“In my mind, there’s no question that Eric Bieniemy deserves an opportunity to be head coach in the National Football League,” Lewis said. “I’m a very, very close friend of Andy Reid’s and for the last three years, he’s talked to me about Eric’s ability and attributes and what he has added to their offense. That’s why he elevated him to the coordinator role. Andy has recommended a number of coaches to me over the years, and he’s never been wrong.”
“Yes, Eric Bieniemy does deserve a head-coaching job,” Jackson said. “There’s no question about it. I think he’s one of the brightest, young offensive minds in the NFL. Everyone says who is the next up-and-coming guy, and he’s been that. He’s worthy of that. I mean, watch how the quarterback played in Kansas City. I just know when they talk about offense, they talk about Eric.”
Working on the offensive side of the ball should work in Bieniemy’s favor, with most teams seemingly looking for the next bright offensive mind. Bieniemy is one of two black offensive coordinators, along with Byron Leftwich of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I’ve been an offensive coach my whole entire life,” Bieniemy said. “People think just because you coach running backs you don’t understand the pass game. Well, when you’ve played the position, and you’re involved in coaching the position, you’ve got to make sure guys understand the entire game plan, meaning you’re very much involved in the pass game. You have to understand protections. You have to understand route concepts. You have to understand how defenses are structured going against you.
“Do we need more [minority] coaches on the offensive side of the ball? Yes. How do we go about doing that? We have to make sure there’s a plan for guys of helping guys get into that quarterback room and into quality-control positions so those guys can add that knowledge and learn how to deal with the quarterbacks, learn the language and speak it.”