Dan Graziano was asked on Tuesday’s episode of “Get Up” if it would be an overreaction to say Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy has “missed his window to become a head coach?”
We’re sure the question is ridiculous to some. It’s definitely a touchy subject among Black people, but Mike Greenberg posed it and Graziano says “it’s not an overreaction.”
“You hope that it is. You hope that he eventually gets it, but this is a guy who used to interview everywhere and this cycle with nine openings, got one interview in Denver and didn’t get the job. You do start to wonder if there are other candidates coming up that have gone past him in terms of desirability. You hope not for Eric’s sake but at this point, he’s not quite the hot name it used to be when you talk about who’s getting these interviews.”
It’s unfortunate that a master play caller who has been to four straight AFC Championships, cultivated Patrick Mahomes’ rise to greatness and has been lauded by his Hall of Fame head coach as the most influential person when it comes to designing a perennially Top 5 offense can’t get a real opportunity to become a head coach.
It gets tiring for people on all sides of the racial spectrum when we constantly have to refer back to race as the reason why an individual didn’t get an opportunity he or she deserves. But in the case of the NFL, the numbers tell the entire story. The fact that the optics are even worse, and the league still keeps passing the buck off to the owners as far as the embarrassingly low numbers of African-Americans in leadership positions, is a sad state of affairs.
The NFL had a record number of eight minority coaches at the start of 2017, which tied the record set in 2011, when it appeared as if minority head coaches would reach double digits in the next couple of years, bringing an end to any anachronistic ideas about the leadership and intellect of a minority head coach.
Unfortunately, five years later, Pittsburgh Steelers HC Mike Tomlin is the only Black man in such a position out of 32 teams in a league that is 70 percent Black.
There were nine NFL openings entering the offseason. There was also much conversation among sports media panelists and social media participants concerning the lack of Black representation at the head coaching position.
There are undoubtedly several highly qualified Black candidates who have interviewed for one of the nine openings. Leslie Frazier, Lovie Smith, Jim Caldwell, Raheem Morris and Vance Joseph all have previous head coaching experience. What happened to Steve Wilks who got one shot with the Arizona Cardinals in a tank year before they drafted Kyler Murray?
Eric Bieniemy and Byron Leftwich are the standout offensive coordinators in the game. We’ve mentioned how San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans gives off young Mike Tomlin vibes. The list of qualified Black coaches is truly deep and plentiful, but four hires into this 2022 coaching carousel and no Black blood has been infused into NFL’s whitewashed head coaching ranks.
The Raiders hired New England Patriots OC Josh McDaniels as the franchise’s head coach on Monday.
McDaniels joins the Raiders for his 22nd season in the NFL, having spent 18 years with the New England Patriots, including 13 seasons as the team’s offensive coordinator. He also served as the Denver Broncos’ head coach from 2009-10 and the St. Louis Rams’ offensive coordinator in 2011.
Josh McDaniels gets his second shot at being a head coach and you can’t be mad at him. However, four head coach positions have been filled so far with first-year head coaches, and they are all white. The Giants, which have never had a Black head coach in team history, hired former Buffalo Bills OC Biran Daboll.
The Chicago Bears, which needed to find stability for franchise QB Justin Fields, hired a Black GM with a defensive background and he hired a first-year coach in Matt Eberflus, with a defensive background and no head coaching experience.
The Denver Broncos hired 42-year-old hot shot OC Nathaniel Hackett, who has spent the last three seasons as Aaron Rodgers’ offensive coordinator in Green Bay. Many believe this move is more about the Broncos trying to lure Aaron Rodgers to Mile High.
In any event, there are five jobs left and still one Black NFL coach. For commentators to be putting Eric Bieniemy, who continues to show his ability to adjust and create and in KC, on the missed-his-window list is borderline absurd.
Bieniemy’s done nothing to tarnish his reputation as a play caller, elite offensive mind, a developer of quarterbacks and capable leader of men.
Very interesting take on ESPN and “Get Up.” With five jobs still left, Bieniemy is very much in play, but if he isn’t hired don’t point the finger his way. Should ESPN really be giving NFL owners an easy way out? Asking questions like the one posed to Dan Graziano is straight suspect and does more harm than good to Bieniemy’s cause.
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