Three NFL teams have fired their head coaches so far this season, and there are at least four others likely to be goners the day after the season ends. One potential opening stands out as the most desirable, and Eric Bieniemy will have a legitimate beef with Roger Goodell if the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator loses out on the opportunity.
Why is Eric Bieniemy a hot name in the NFL?
After an outstanding career at the University of Colorado as a running back, Eric Bieniemy went on to a nondescript NFL career with three teams. Bieniemy totaled just 1,589 rushing yards and 146 receptions in nine seasons. Since his retirement, however, Bieniemy has developed a reputation as a rising star in the coaching ranks.
Bieniemy, 51, coached running backs at Colorado and UCLA from 2001-05, then joined the Minnesota Vikings staff for five seasons when Adrian Peterson was piling up big numbers. He went back to Colorado at the end of the 2010 season, this time as the offensive coordinator.
In 2013, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid hired Bieniemy to coach running backs. And although Reid held on to play-calling duties, he made Bieniemy the offensive coordinator in 2018. That, of course, coincided with the rise of quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Some NFL observers expressed surprise that Bieniemy didn’t land a job as an NFL head coach after the Chiefs won Super Bowl 54, especially as the focus returned to the low number of minority coaches in the league.
The Los Angeles Chargers job will be attractive
The Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, and Detroit Lions beat the holiday rush by sacking Bill O’Brien, Dan Quinn, and Matt Patricia, respectively, before the calendar turned to December. Of the interims, Raheem Morris stands the best chance of being retained in Atlanta or hired elsewhere.
The consensus formed a month into the season that the New York Jets will fire Adam Gase. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers) are also unlikely to survive. Firing Mike McCarthy after one season would require Jerry Jones to concede his faulty judgment isn’t limited to player personnel, so McCarthy might get a mulligan.
For the most part, the aforementioned potential openings are undesirable because of poor management/ownership or the need to rebuild. For that reason, the Chargers job looks to be the most appealing of the bunch. Eric Bieniemy quite possibly has the same opinion.
In fact, the 2021 draft could be the last time the Chargers select in the first 15 picks for a while. Andy Reid and one or two others might take a pass, but plenty of coaches would leap at the opportunity to run an offense featuring Justin Herbert throwing to Keenan Allen. The defense needs help, but fifth-year defensive end Joey Bosa makes for a decent foundation.
Roger Goodell might cost Eric Bieniemy his best opportunity
NFL fans are familiar with the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for vacancies for head coach and certain front-office positions. The 2020 season began with just four of the 32 top coaching jobs held down by minority coaches.
Last month, commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL adjusted the rule to encourage teams to develop more potential candidates. The league will award two third-round compensatory draft picks to teams losing minority coaches to an organization hiring a head coach. While the rule seemingly encourages hiring, ESPN explained why that might not be the case in some situations.
The Los Angeles Chargers are last in the AFC West with a 3-8 record. There’s a widespread assumption that they will fire head coach Anthony Lynn at the end of the season. The Kansas City Chiefs also play in the AFC West. The defending Super Bowl champions are loaded with talent and already possess nine picks in the 2021 NFL draft.
But if the Chargers fire Lynn and hire Bieniemy, they will be gift-wrapping two more third-round picks to Kansas City, which looks like a strong candidate to win Super Bowl 55. The Chargers would already have their hands full competing with Kansas City in the next couple of seasons anyway. Handing the Chiefs two valuable draft picks might be incentive enough for them to look to someone other than Bieniemy.
That’s incredibly unfair to Bieniemy, who might not be interested in most if not all of the other potential openings.