Analysis Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness: Eric Bieniemy will stay on as Chiefs offensive coordinator; David Culley hired as Texans head coach

Multiple sources report that the Houston Texans will be hiring Ravens assistant coach David Culley as their new head coach. With that being the last available head coaching position, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy will once again be overlooked.

As the Kansas City Chiefs broke their huddle after the two-minute warning, Patrick Mahomes would only need to take three snaps in victory formation to seal up the win over the Buffalo Bills and lead his team to their second consecutive Super Bowl.

The game against the Bills was the third consecutive AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium and the third AFC Championship Game of Patrick Mahomes’ young career. Mahomes has never played in anything less than the AFC Championship game since he became a starter in 2018.

The same could be said for Eric Bieniemy, however. Bieniemy was hired as the Chiefs offensive coordinator in 2018 and has coached in the AFC Championship game every year since. The only other offensive coordinator to coach in three straight home conference championship games was former head coach Brad Childress when he was a coordinator for Andy Reid in Philadelphia.

Bieniemy has been heavily considered one of the favorites to land a head coaching position for the past two seasons, but as news broke of the Texans hiring David Culley, it appears the Chiefs will be retaining their current offensive coordinator. This is obviously good news for the Chiefs, but it does beg the question, “Why is Eric Bieniemy getting passed up?”

Former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs under Andy Reid from 2013-2015. During that time, the Chiefs never won the division and never made it past the divisional round of the playoffs. In fact, they missed the playoffs in 2014 (the only time in Andy Reid’s tenure with the Chiefs). In those three years, the Chiefs averaged a little over tenth best in scoring.

In 2016, Pederson was hired as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chiefs promoted Matt Nagy to co-offensive coordinator alongside Brad Childress. The Chiefs were ranked 13th scoring offense that season but the following year, Nagy took over full offensive coordinator duties.

The Chiefs jumped up to sixth in scoring but fell short once again in the wild card round of the playoffs. Despite the poor showing in the playoffs, where Nagy took full responsibility for the play-calling in the second half of that game. The Chicago Bears hired him as their next head coach. Both Pederson and Nagy have seen success as head coaches. Pederson won Superbowl LII in 2018 and Nagy has taken the Bears to two playoff appearances.

So that leaves us with Eric Bieniemy. Bieniemy was Nagy’s replacement and the offense became the number one scoring offense in 2018. Of course, that is also due to rising star Patrick Mahomes, but even Mahomes credits Bieniemy for a lot of his success in an interview for 610 Sports’ The Drive.

“You see how our offense has produced over the last few years. He’s been one of the most vital pieces of that. Obviously, I want him to be here, but I understand that he deserves a chance to go out there and coach his own team and run his own organization. He’s the guy that holds everybody in the organization accountable and he builds the culture the right way. And obviously, he knows how to call the plays and produce on the field. So, there’s no real negative about it and so I don’t understand why he wouldn’t get one (Head Coach job) in this cycle.”

Patrick Mahomes on 610 Sports’ The Drive

“He taught me how to become a better person, which I think is more important than anything. How to hold other people accountable, how to be the leader in the locker room, and I think that’s super important for any quarterback. And then on the field, he’s taught me a ton about protection, he’s taught me about how to go about my business of taking the deep shot when it’s there and taking the check down and moving the chains and doing things like that. I mean he’s someone who’s very involved in the game planning and calling the plays every single week.”

Patrick Mahomes on 610 Sports’ The Drive

So, if Eric Bieniemy was a big part of the development of the face of the NFL, why wouldn’t other teams want him to bring that success to their organization?

I thought it would be a good idea to get another perspective on the issue, so I reached out to my Arrowhead Live colleague and co-host of The Aftermath Podcast, CJ Jones. CJ is someone who has expressed his concern with the lack of African American coaches being hired in the NFL.

In our discussion, CJ expressed that he does think that race is an issue with why Eric Bieniemy hasn’t been offered a head coaching position, but that wasn’t his main concern. His main concern was how long of a leash that black coaches are allowed to have once they get a head coaching position.  

This was an interesting point and one that I had never really looked into. Take a look at Mike Zimmer with the Minnesota Vikings. He has been with that team since 2014 and for the most part, they have been mediocre aside from a fluky 13-3 season with Case Keenum.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden is even worse. In his three seasons, he has yet to put up a winning record. Zac Taylor with the Bengals should be thrown in this conversation as well. I know he has only had two seasons under his belt and his first-round quarterback got hurt this past season, but he’s only won six games total.

I bring up Taylor because in the year before he was hired, the Arizona Cardinals hired Steve Wilks as their head coach. After a 3-13 season, Wilks was let go. He never got to draft a first-round quarterback to build a team around as Taylor did. Did I forget to mention that Wilks is black?

Vance Joseph is another African American head coach that was given a shorter leash than most. Joseph was given two-seasons to bring the Broncos back to glory. The problem was, he had Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler under center in 2017 and Case Keenum in 2018. Joseph was fired after the 2018 season and Vic Fangio was hired in 2019. Fangio was able to start his coaching tenure with a rookie quarterback in Drew Lock. In two seasons, Fangio has one more win than Joseph but will continue on to the 2021 season.

These were just a few instances of African American head coaches being allowed less room for error in head coaching positions, but in my conversation with CJ, I could tell that he was concerned for Bieniemy in that regard. We both agree the EB will eventually get a shot because he is a proven winner and good at his job. Some team will finally wise up and offer him a head coaching position.

The Texans just hired David Culley, who is a black man, so some team will step up for Bieniemy. The question will be how long his leash will be once he gets that job. It is a real tough situation for him to be in. Teams are not offering him positions, so he will likely take the first thing that comes his way.

What if that first gig is a dumpster fire? What if it takes more than three years to turn the organization around? Teams like the Jets or the Lions come to mind. Those jobs would be horrible for him because he wouldn’t be allowed the time it takes to become a winning coach. He would be out just like Joseph and Wilks.

I expressed similar concern for Eric Bieniemy’s struggle to become a head coach in an article I wrote over a year ago. In the article, I pulled a tweet from NFL Media writer Jim Trotter.

This is exactly what I think of every time EB gets over-looked for a lesser qualified coach. The less qualified part is the actual disturbing thing about it. It shouldn’t matter what your skin color is, it should be based on your qualifications. Guys like Dan Campbell, Nick Sirianni, and Arthur Smith have nowhere near the qualifications of Eric Bieniemy, but yet they will be new head coaches for their respective teams in 2021.

Bieniemy does want to be a head coach, but he isn’t going to let these setbacks take away from the goals that he has set in his current role with the Chiefs.

Selfishly, I would love for EB to stay in Kansas City for a long time and possibly take over when Andy Reid hangs it up. Who knows how long that will be though? What I do know is this: The Chiefs’ players work hard for Eric Bieniemy, the entire Chiefs’ organization speaks highly of Eric Bieniemy, and Chiefs Kingdom will always root for Eric Bieniemy.

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