How does the Chiefs’ Eric Bienemy become an NFL head coach?
It was another year in which the Chiefs’ offense looked dominant en route to their second Super Bowl in four seasons. Missouri’s only NFL team has hosted a conference championship game each of the last five seasons and was defeated in regulation zero times. Patrick Mahomes gets the spoils as the best quarterback in the game and conversations have already begun at 27 that he’s already a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Andy Reid went from a solid coach and great person to being considered among the greatest to ever tow a sideline. Where’s the confetti for Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy?
The window for Bienemy to be a head coach in 2023 has closed
With Jonathan Gannon being named the Arizona Cardinals head coach on Tuesday, another offseason NFL head coaching carousel ride has completed, with Bienemy interviewing and not being offered a head coaching job in the NFL, while those with less experience and less success jump the line. It’s not a matter of whether Bienemy could be a head coach. Does anyone see a year one on any team under him going as badly as Nathaniel Hackett’s tenure in Denver? If you’d rather have the current Jets’ offensive coordinator running your team, be my guest. On planet Earth, Bienemy wouldn’t let any situation deteriorate that quickly. And it’s clear that opportunity isn’t going to happen without something drastic changing for him.
There appear to be two options for Bienemy to get into the NFL’s head coaching fraternity. First would be the higher risk, higher reward option of leaving the Chiefs. Leaving an ideal situation in Kansas City to run an offense would separate his accomplishments from Reid, instead of sharing or giving away a majority of the credit. FOX’s Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen shouted out Reid for the decisions that led to the team’s double-digit Super Bowl LVII comeback over the Eagles, not the team’s offensive coordinator. Going to a team like the Commanders, who’ve shown public interest in acquiring Bienemy’s services, would expose his abilities as a play caller. Washington head coach Ron Rivera is obviously a defensive-minded coach, leaving Bienemy on an island when it comes to running the offense. With a decent amount of talent in the nation’s capital, how he’d elevate Sam Howell would be a great sign of how he’d perform as a head coach. Then again, others have been hired with less proof, but that’s just not the reality for Bienemy.
The only other option, after multiple head-coaching cycles passed him by, would be outlasting Reid’s tenure in Kansas City and taking over for his current boss — getting Mahomes and Reid to hand him the job as best they can. Bienemy clearly has the proper support from Kansas City’s front office. And with no signs of Reid slowing down at 64, that might be a long wait, despite how strongly the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach thinks of his star pupil. It’s an odd juxtaposition, because Reid was named the Eagles’ head coach over two decades ago without any play-calling experience. Bienemy likely won’t get the same leeway, and he’s become the poster boy (man) for the inequities in the NFL’s head coaching ranks.
What’s the reason Bienemy keeps getting passed over?
The list of allegations from Bienemy’s time as a running back at Colorado to becoming a collegiate coach is troubling, including allegedly grabbing a female parking attendant by the neck and threatening her in 1993. Not having a perfect record is reason enough not to hire him as a head coach, but let’s not pretend he’d be the only one with an unsavory past who has had the chance to helm an NFL team. Do we forget Urban Meyer that quickly? Some wondered if Bienemy would jump back to the college ranks when the Buffaloes’ job opened up a few months back. Colorado ended up hiring Deion Sanders. Even so, Jim Harbaugh’s flirtation with going back to the NFL and leaving Michigan behind has much more credence, because he’s led a team to a Super Bowl before his current stint in Ann Arbor. Bienemy doesn’t have any heading coaching experience on his resume.
Pretending Bienemy’s circumstances will be much different next year when another coaching carousel starts is foolish. He did more than enough to prove he was worthy by NFL standards a long time ago to be one of the league’s 32 head coaches. And he was passed over more than a dozen times since the Chiefs’ 2020 Super Bowl victory. Even if Kansas City doesn’t win another title next season, who doubts its offense won’t look impressive? And that will be in part due to Bienemy.
On paper, leaving the Chiefs for a raise and a new opportunity would do the trick. Then you have to remember that the people hiring head coaches won’t change, even if Bienemy leads Washington to playoff success in an easier conference. And if none with vacancies over the last three years would hire him, he’ll have to wait for Clark Hunt to promote him. And Bienemy will be well overdue when that day comes.