KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s name is mentioned 15 times in a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores in federal court in the Southern District of New York.
Flores sued the NFL, Dolphins and two other franchises — the New York Giants and Denver Broncos — alleging racism in the league’s hiring and retention practices for Black head coaches, coordinators and general managers.
The lawsuit includes the NFL’s other 29 teams, but doesn’t levy specific claims against those organizations, though it lays out a pattern of league-wide conduct that it believes demonstrates that “the NFL remains rife with racism.”
It further alleges that despite “every chance to do the right thing ... the racial discrimination has only been made worse by the NFL’s disingenuous commitment to social equity.”
Bieniemy’s case is one of several cited in the Flores lawsuit. He’s been passed over at least 14 times after interviewing for a head-coaching job despite being a high-profile coordinator “who many considered to be the best Head Coach prospect on the market,” according to the lawsuit.
The Flores complaint details Bieniemy’s deep ties to the game of football and his sustained success as an NFL assistant, then questions why he hasn’t been offered the chance to lead his own team:
Without question, Mr. Bieniemy has the pedigree, track record and reputation to make him a sought-after Head Coach. However, despite being interviewed for approximately 20 vacant positions over the last five years, no team has extended Mr. Bieniemy an offer.
During this time, numerous white candidates who are clearly less qualified have taken over the Head Coach duties for numerous NFL teams.
Goal Line Football, which represents Bieniemy, said they were still reviewing the “full scope” of the lawsuit and were not prepared to comment yet.
Bieniemy has served as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator for the last four seasons. He spent the previous four seasons as a running backs coach on Andy Reid’s staff.
During that time, Kansas City’s offense has never finished worse than sixth in scoring or total offense. The Chiefs led the league in scoring in 2019 and in total yards in 2018 and 2020.
Despite being widely viewed as a top candidate, Bieniemy hasn’t landed any of the 24 head-coaching jobs filled during the last four hiring cycles and has not been publicly named as a candidate for any of the five remaining vacancies during the 2022 hiring cycle.
Bieniemy is known to have interviewed 14 times for an NFL head-coaching vacancy during the last four offseasons, according to “4th & 1” podcast co-host and KSHB producer Nick Jacobs, but he’s yet to land a top coaching gig.
Here is the Head Coaching interview timeline for #Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy over the past three seasons. He interviewed with 12 teams and had 14 request over three hiring cycles. Seems like Bengals & Texans were his closest to HC. pic.twitter.com/Zeo1vZhqzk— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) December 28, 2021
“I think it’s discouraging, to say the least,” Bieniemy’s agent, Brian Levy, said in a 2020 interview with Yahoo! Sports. “We’re really trying to find out what the standard is, and every year the standard changes. We’re just trying to swim against the current.”
During the 2019 offseason, Bieniemy interviewed with Tampa Bay, the New York Jets, Miami and Cincinnati.
Only one of those jobs — Flores’ hire by the Dolphins, ironically — went to a Black candidate.
Cleveland, the New York Giants and Carolina interviewed and passed on Bieniemy in 2020, while six teams — Atlanta, Detroit, the Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville, the Jets (again) and Houston — interviewed him a year ago.
So far in 2022, Denver is the only team known to have interviewed Bieniemy, but the Broncos hired former Green Bay offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett instead.
“His mentality is to keep moving forward,” Levy said two years ago. “Eventually there will be a team that’s smart enough to hire him, and they’ll reap the benefit.”
That’s yet to happen. Among the five current vacancies, there are no reports Bieniemy will interview for any of them.
The lawsuit also highlights alleged discrimination against former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the league’s tolerance of former Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s racist comments as well as the NFL’s concussion settlement and its “pandering” response to protests after George Floyd’s murder.
It cites the lack of opportunity for seven Black coaches, including Bieniemy, in addition to Flores as indicative of the NFL’s pattern of racist hiring and retention practices.
The complaint in the Flores lawsuit takes the Giants to task for passing over Bieniemy two years ago in favor of Joe Judge, who already has been fired, and suggests the club only interviews minority candidates for show.
The Flores complaint also cites former Chiefs assistant David Culley’s one-year tenure in Houston, where he matched the Texans’ 2020 win total (four) despite Deshaun Watson’s absence amid off-field allegations of misconduct.
The lawsuit seeks to certify all Black head coaches, coordinators, quarterbacks coaches and general managers as well as candidates for those jobs as a proposed class and seeks damages for discriminatory hiring and retention practices, “sham and illegitimate interviews,” unequal terms and conditions of employment, and unequal compensation.
Flores, who won four Super Bowls in 11 seasons as an assistant in New England, learned via an accidental text message from Bill Belichick that the Giants planned to hire Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll three days before his interview with New York.
The Giants did, in fact, hire Daboll to take over for Judge last week, leaving Flores to conclude is interview was no more than a ruse to satisfy the Rooney Rule.
Flores also alleges that Denver brought him in for a sham interview in 2019 in an effort to satisfies the league’s Rooney Rule, an affirmative-action policy that requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior front-office positions, was enacted in 2003.
The league had three Black head coaches at that time.
With some dominoes yet to fall on the 2022 coaching carousel, the NFL currently has only one Black head coach — Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin.
The Chiefs declined to comment on the lawsuit through a spokesperson.