As the dust settles on the NFL’s hiring cycle, there are still efforts to kick up dust on the failure of Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to get one of the seven available head-coaching jobs.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who has seen both Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy vault from the position Bieniemy now holds to a head-coaching job in recent years, has said he plans to ask the decisions-makers to explain the failure to hire Bieniemy. Others who marvel at the the production of the Kansas City and witness Bieniemy’s efforts to actively coach his players have similar questions.
The current and former executive directors of the Fritz Pollard Alliance likewise are dismayed by the outcome of the 2021 hiring cycle, as it relates to Bieniemy.
Current executive director Rod Graves recently told Mark Maske of the Washington Post that Graves is “disappointed” by the failure of Bieniemy to get one of the jobs. “Eric is a damn good coach and there’s no reason why he should be excluded from our sidelines as an NFL head coach,” Graves told Maske.
Former Fritz Pollard Alliance executive director John Wooten feels the same way.
“It bothered me,” Wooten told Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I know how good a coach he is. I know the input he has with what Kansas City is doing. I don’t understand. It’s hurtful. It’s a hurtful thing to see.”
Graves was also disappointed by the broader results of the hiring cycle.
“Given the fact that we had seven openings, I think the expectation certainly was that we’d do better than having one Black [head] coach hired,” Graves told Maske. (Graves separately has praised the Jaguars for their efforts to comply with the Rooney Rule, despite hiring a white coach and a white General Manager.)
Nineteen years ago, the NFL adopted the Rooney Rule in response to a clear threat of litigation from Cyrus Mehri and the late Johnnie Cochran. Frankly, at this point, nothing short of a similar threat — or the reality of a lawsuit — will compel meaningful change.
The league likely is banking on that never happening, because football coaches simply want to coach football. Any assistant coach who decides to sue will have to assume the risk of being shunned not only for head-coaching opportunities but also for any other NFL employment.
I’m not saying that will happen. I’m saying that the person who signs off on the filing of a civil complaint alleging racially discriminatory employment practices must accept the possibility that they suddenly will be deemed to be unfit for a job with any of the NFL’s 32 teams. Few will want to potentially give up their entire career to seek justice for having an artificial lid placed on the ability to reach the highest levels of the profession.