Once Again, the Chiefs Will Make NFL Pay For Not Hiring Eric Bieniemy Away
The Kansas City Chiefs have once again put the band back together. That has the rest of the NFL singing the blues.
Eric Bieniemy is returning for a fifth straight season as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, agreeing to serve on a one-year contract for the third straight season. This keeps the trio of Bieniemy, head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes together for a fifth straight season.
All they’ve done together in the previous four years is lead the league in points, yards, and offensive touchdowns per game, go to four straight AFC Championship Games, advance to two Super Bowls, and win one in 2019. Now they’ll be back to do it all over again.
But the other 31 teams in the league, and most notably the other 15 teams in the AFC, could have easily broken up the Chiefs’ dream team by doing what the Chiefs have essentially been clamoring for another organization to do for the past three seasons: Hire Bieniemy away as a head coach.
Once again, it didn’t happen. Once again, the Chiefs shrug their shoulders and say, “You’re probably going to regret this.”
Bieniemy is now 0-for-14 since 2019 trying to get a head-coaching job
For the second straight offseason, Bieniemy was a coaching free agent, free to go to any other team in the league. These one-year deals were certainly no accident. Bieniemy has been considered a hot head-coaching prospect for the past three years. From 2019-21, Bieniemy interviewed for 12 different head-coaching vacancies.
But despite the glaring lack of minority head-coaching hires in the NFL, none of the teams that interviewed Beiniemy hired him. And so for the past three seasons, Bieniemy returned to the Chiefs and put together seasons of the league’s most-devastating offense.
Only perhaps a single ill-conceived play-call at the end of the first half of the 2021 AFC Championship Game prevented Bieniemy from becoming the offensive coordinator of just the fourth team in NFL history to go to three straight Super Bowls.
Surely, Bieniemy had earned the opportunity, at last, to land a head-coaching job in 2022. But once again, no offers were forthcoming. In fact, Bieniemy had fewer interviews this offseason than any of the previous three cycles. Only the New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos brought Bieniemy in for interviews, and the Saints interview, very late in their process, felt less than on-the-level.
Perhaps this is why Brian Flores specifically uses Bieniemy as an example in his lawsuit against the NFL for what he alleges as systemic racial bias in hiring practices.
Five AFC teams could have broken up the Chiefs’ triumvirate in 2022; None did
But the reality is, the Kansas City Chiefs will have a stranglehold on one of the two spots in the AFC Championship Game every year Bieniemy, Reid and Mahones represent the command-and-control system of the offense. Certainly, the other 15 teams in the AFC know this. Certainly, the other three teams in the AFC West know this.
And yet, there were five AFC head-coaching vacancies this cycle, including the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars. The other two came from within the Chiefs’ division: The Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders. Once again, none of them took the opportunity to yank a leg out of the three-pronged stool that props up the best offense in the NFL.
It’s particularly fascinating when you realize one of the teams in this cycle was the Broncos and the Raiders’ opening went to former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. A decade ago, the combination of Denver and McDaniels proved the point that breaking up a dynasty’s head coach-offensive coordinator-quarterback trio can slay the giant.
The AFC has seen this phenomenon before, but once again, history won’t repeat itself
After four straight years in the AFC Championship Game, and with the Patriots now three years removed from Tom Brady-Bill Belichick partnership, the Chiefs can rightly claim to be the new AFC dynasty. But about that previous one? The one with the six Super Bowl titles over two decades? There was one noticeable hiccup, and the broken link in the chain was not Brady or Belichick, it was McDaniels.
When Belichick, McDaniels and Brady were together in 2007, they produced arguably the greatest season of offense in league history. Brady threw for 50 touchdowns and the Patriots led the league in points and yards, taking an 18-0 record into the Super Bowl.
And even when Brady missed the entire 2008 season with a torn ACL, McDaniels was able to coax 3,693 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 wins out of Matt Cassell, who literally had taken 72 snaps over the previous seven seasons – 33 in four years of college at USC and 39 in his first three seasons as Brady’s backup.
But what happened when the Broncos extracted McDaniels from the equation in 2009, making him their head coach? The Patriots went without a dedicated offensive coordinator for the first two seasons without McDaniels and lost in their first playoff game in the 2009 and ’10 seasons, the only consecutive one-and-dones in the Brady-Belichick era.
And after Bill O’Brien got the Patriots back to the Super Bowl in 2011 as the dedicated offensive coordinator, McDaniels replaced him in his return to New England in 2012 and proceeded to team with Belichick and Brady to appear in four more Super Bowls and win three over the next seven seasons.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference