The Kansas City Chiefs made NFL history with their brilliant comeback to defeat the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round, 51-31. Down 24-0, quarterback Patrick Mahomes went off in the second quarter to give his team a 28-24 lead at halftime. Mahomes tied former Washington QB Doug Williams’ postseason record with four touchdowns in a quarter.
KC didn’t slow down in the second half, scoring another 24 points to complete a 51-7 run. FIFTY ONE TO SEVEN! It was a pretty bad look for Bill O’Brien’s Texans team, leaving many wondering if he’s the right guy for the job.
But an even bigger question coming out of the game is how in the hell hasn’t an NFL team hired Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy yet?
Bieniemy has one of the most impressive offensive coaching resumes in the league, and he has support from the Chiefs to pursue head coaching jobs.
Bieniemy, who has been with the Chiefs since Andy Reid was hired in 2013, interviewed for three of the recently vacated head coaching jobs this year: the Panthers, Browns, and Giants. Last week, Carolina hired former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, and the Giants went with former Patriots special teams coordinator/wide receivers coach Joe Judge. The Browns hired Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
Bieniemy’s background and experience makes him the perfect head coaching candidate.
In his first season as offensive coordinator in 2018, Bieniemy helped the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game. The Chiefs finished first in the league in total offense and scoring, coming up just 41 points shy of the 2013 Broncos’ record for points scored in a season (603).
In Mahomes’ first season as a starter, he won NFL MVP honors and became the third quarterback in league history to throw for at least 50 touchdowns in a season.
The Chiefs put together a top-five scoring offense in Bieniemy’s second season, despite a string of early injuries. They are currently riding a seven-game win streak that has put them one win away from playing in their first Super Bowl since 1970.
Kansas City’s success this season isn’t all because of Mahomes, either. When Mahomes went down with a sprained kneecap, the Chiefs’ offense didn’t slow down much with backup Matt Moore behind center. Bieniemy’s offense scored 80 points over a 2-1 stretch with Moore as its primary passer.
Bieniemy’s offenses even put up big numbers even before Mahomes exploded onto the scene. He was the Chiefs’ running backs coach from 2013-2017. Under his tutelage, Jamaal Charles rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2013 and 2014. Prior to Kansas City, Bieniemy coached with the Vikings from 2006-2010. In that time, Adrian Peterson led the NFC in rushing yards with 1,341 in 2007, then led the NFL with 1,760 in 2008.
Even Bieniemy’s boss, Reid, has been stumping for him to be hired away:
“I’d say hire him, like right now,” Reid said in early December, via Chiefs Wire. “That’s what I’d tell you. I don’t want to lose him, but if you’re asking me if he’s ready to be a head coach? Yeah, he’s ready. He was ready last year. Nobody is in more control than what he is within this game. He is a leader of men. He knows football, but he knows the offense like the back of his hand. He is in the quarterback room every day. I think if you talked to Patrick, I think Patrick would tell you how much of an influence he has had on him.”
Mahomes, of course, echoed his head coach:
“I think the details and the way he is able to control the room to get the best out of every single player is a big thing,” Mahomes said, also via Chiefs Wire. “[Bieniemy] holds you to a high standard and he holds you to the standard that you need to be perfect with every single rep you get in practice. I think those details and that standard he holds everybody to elevates everyone’s game.”
Those endorsements are significant. Reid’s coaching tree is one of the most successful and wide-reaching in the NFL. Ten of Reid’s former assistants have earned head coaching jobs, including the likes of Nagy, John Harbaugh (Ravens), Doug Pederson (Eagles), and Sean McDermott (Bills). Harbaugh and Pederson have both won Super Bowls.
This isn’t the first time Bieniemy has been passed over.
He interviewed for the Jets, Bucs, Bengals, and Dolphins last season, too, before returning to the Chiefs. The head coaches hired instead of him were, like this year, a mix of retreads (Adam Gase, Bruce Arians) and first timers (Zac Taylor, Brian Flores). They went a combined 21-43 in 2019, and none had winning seasons.
This year, Rhule, Judge, and Stefanski are also first-time NFL coaches, and Stefanski, the only other NFL OC, had been a coordinator for just a year and change. Bieniemy doesn’t have any less NFL head coaching experience than any of those guys.
Bieniemy’s situation spotlights the NFL’s glaring, and frankly embarrassing, lack of diversity among head coaches. Despite the league’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for both head coaching and senior football operations jobs, only one minority head coach was hired this cycle. That was longtime Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who is now with Washington.
Zero black coaches have been hired during this coaching carousel season, and just one — Dolphins head coach Brian Flores — was hired during last year’s cycle. The fact that Bieniemy, and other talented black coaches, have been overlooked suggests that the Rooney Rule isn’t doing what it’s in place to do.
The rule itself is necessary, but teams should be more committed to giving minority coaches opportunities than simply checking a box. There are other factors in the lack of of black head coaches in the NFL, including an institutionally flawed pipeline, but the crux of the problem falls on the general managers and executives who are in charge.
Bieniemy has a wealth of NFL experience, his offenses score a ton of points, he comes from one of the most successful coaching trees in the league, and his players respect him. The Chiefs still have a shot at reaching the Super Bowl, too. How he hasn’t been hired yet is baffling, to say the least.