KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A rule created to increase opportunities for minorities in the NFL coaching ranks is under fire, and Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy is now part of the controversy through no fault of his own.
“We got to make sure we are eliminating all the distractions,” Bieniemy said Thursday in a press conference as he tried to redirect questions about his head coaching interviews the past week to this weekend’s playoff game.
Bieniemy has been the focus of many teams searching for a new head coach. The question, though, is if he’s being interviewed for all the right reasons.
“I do think certainly in some of these scenarios — it’s hard to pinpoint exactly who — they say, ‘Hey, let’s interview Eric Bieniemy, and then let’s go hire the guy we really want. I think that’s absolutely happening,” said Carrington Harrison of 610 Sports The Drive.
Heading up some all time great NFL offenses the past two seasons, Bieniemy certainly has the resume to lead a team.
But the NFL also has something called the Rooney Rule, requiring teams to interview at least one minority candidate. More than half the time that’s been Bieniemy. He’s interviewed for seven of the 12 head coaching positions open in the past two years.
“It’s always great to have the opportunity to be considered in those roles,” Bieniemy said.
Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, calls Bieniemy a friend. He also was friends with Major League Baseball’s first African-American coach Buck O’Neill.
“That was 1962, and here we are still dealing with some of those same issues that transcended from the Negro Leagues as we look at the hierarchy of sports,” Kendrick said.
Kendrick applauds the NFL for its efforts to get more minorities on the headsets in a league where minorities fill the majority of positions on the field. But he said if that means interviewing the same man each time and never giving him a job, it may be time to rethink things.
“The field is one thing, but as we start to look at the hierarchy of these leagues and the organizations that are there for qualified individuals to go into these managerial roles, we’ve still got some work to do there,” Kendrick said.
One thing working against Bieniemy might be his team’s own success. None of the hires this offseason were still coaching playoff teams. The Cleveland Browns have yet to fill the team’s coaching vacancy.