Eric Bieniemy

The NFL should be basking in the glow of a Super Bowl that was not only exciting and came down to the final eight seconds, but drew  an audience of 113 million people. Not only was it the most watched Super Bowl in six years, but reportedly that game was the single most watched TV show in history. Now whether you believe that or not depends on how much faith you put in Nielsen ratings., but one thing is certain, it garnered a huge global audience for the league and once again showed that the NFL remains America’s most popular sport by a wide margin.

But instead of being able to enjoy that popularity, the NFL finds itself looking once again at an embarrassment in terms of its hiring practices. There have been loads of columns written over the years regarding the lack of Black head coaches, and supposedly one of the main reasons has always been there aren’t that many high profile Black coordinators, and even fewer who are on the offensive side and also are responsible for calling the plays.

There were already lots of questions being asked when Tampa Bay fired offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich only two years after winning a Super Bowl. But those have been surpassed now by the reaction to longtime Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy not only getting overlooked once more for head coaching opportunities, but now actually making a lateral move and taking a similar job to the one he’s held with the Chiefs, only now for the Washington Commanders.

Putting this in further perspective, the defensive coordinator of the team that lost the Super Bowl just got a head coaching job. But a man who has now been offensive coordinator, game planner and QB coach for a two-time Super Bowl winning team is only going to be making a lateral move to another team.

Now if you want to put a good face on this move, one could claim that Bieniemy taking the Washington Commanders offensive coordinator position makes sense. He’ll call plays for the first time in his NFL coaching career and it will eradicate the standard excuse trotted out now on why he hasn’t been hired as a head coach. That line is as tired as the other one you often hear, that of all the excuses used to not hire Bieniemy doesn’t interview well, whatever that means. 

The NFL old guard and its media stooges have a laundry list of reasons why there are so few Black coaches, and there’s no need to keep bringing them up because none of them seem to matter when it comes to inexperienced white coaches, whether they are from college or in the pros, get hired for these jobs. White defensive coordinators get hired all the time, as do white college coaches with no pro experience, white coaches who’ve been fired before, whatever. 

As for the nonsense that ;because he was under Andy Reid and therefore doesn’t really merit serious consideration as a head man, why did the same thing not apply to some others. That list includes Doug Pederson. who was Reid’s offensive coordinator and later left to become head coach in Philadelphia. Matt Nagy held the same position under Reid and left to become the head coach in Chicago. Aside from them being white, there’s zero difference between their status prior to getting head jobs and Bieniemy’s now. 

It boils down to the same thing is always has when it comes to the NFL and for that matter MLB. White ownership is uncomfortable putting a Black man in charge of their team and making him the face of the organization. While general managers and player personnel people might make drafting decisions and free agent signings, head coaches are the ones interviewed daily by media and the ones viewed as the voice and top leader of the team.

Fortunately, more Blacks are becoming general managers, and the assumption is that they can and will eventually be in positions to hire Black head coaches. But until and unless that day comes, it’s going to take a change in attitude at the top in the NFL for things to really change and Black coaches to get a fair shot. I’m not sure the impending lawsuit is going to have any impact, because there are all kinds of things being disputed there, and evidentiary proof of discrimination is a tough standard to meet.

Instead, there just has to be hope that one day someone like Eric Beniemy won’t have to keep making unnecessary lateral moves ino order to get the job that he truly wants and deserves.