PHOENIX — Eric Bieniemy had another interview Monday night.
The fact that it was with reporters instead of a general manager or an owner asking questions didn’t outwardly bother the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator, who has become a symbol of a qualified Black assistant coach who’s been unable to land a head coaching gig.
“It’s unfortunate that things haven’t quite worked out, but think about this,” Bieniemy said at Super Bowl Opening Night. “I am going to my third Super Bowl in the past four years. Who wouldn’t want that?”
The Chiefs’ deep playoff runs in recent seasons have been one factor some have opined why Bieniemy — who has coached for two decades after he retired as an NFL running back after nine seasons in 1999 — hasn’t been hired as a head coach.
Bieniemy, 53, interviewed for the Indianapolis Colts’ job last month and reportedly remained in the mix. Other teams have inquired about his services as an offensive coordinator, which would address another theory on why he has yet to be offered a head coaching position: Chiefs head coach Andy Reid calls the plays.
Oddly, that didn’t stop Colts owner Jim Irsay from hiring Jeff Saturday — who had never been a coach in any capacity on the college or pro level — midseason. It also didn’t stop the Denver Broncos from hiring Nathaniel Hackett, the Minnesota Vikings from tapping Kevin O’Connell, or the Miami Dolphins from enlisting Mike McDaniel for head coaching positions over the last couple of hiring cycles.
Bieniemy credited the NFL’s steps to increase the ranks for underrepresented ethnic/racial minorities, including the incubator programs for coaches and front office employees.
“I think the league has done a great job creating such events like the accelerator program,” Bieniemy said. “I think the league is working in the right direction. When it’s all said and done with, they’re gonna hire the best people who they feel are right for them now. That’s what their job is.
“We can only be who we can be. That’s making sure when we’re called upon; you’re ready for that opportunity. You gotta make sure that you’re ready, and you gotta go and get it.”
On Sunday, Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts will become the first Black quarterbacks to start a Super Bowl. It’s been 16 years since two Black head coaches opposed each other in a Super Bowl (Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith) for the first— and only — time.
Only two Black head coaches (Jim Caldwell and Mike Tomlin) have coached in a Super Bowl since.
“Do you like this process?,” Bieniemy said. “Well, whether I like it or not, you know, at the end of the day, this is the profession that I chose. I use this comment on our players all the time, ‘We are gonna find a way to drag our ass across the finish line.’”