KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the last few offseasons, the Kansas City Chiefs have expected to lose Eric Bieniemy from head coach Andy Reid’s staff.
Bieniemy, 52, has interviewed at least 15 times for NFL head coaching jobs since 2019, so it was reasonable for the Chiefs to anticipate he’d move on at some point.
Instead, after New Orleans interviewed Bieniemy for eight hours Sunday then settled on a different candidate, another NFL hiring cycle has come and gone without a promotion for Reid’s top offensive assistant.
Of course, that status — with some in NFL circles questioning whether Reid or Bieniemy deserves credit for Kansas City’s elite offense — may be part of the reason Bieniemy’s head-coaching candidacy remains stuck in neutral.
It also may inform his decision to move on from the Chiefs anyway.
Bieniemy’s contract ends later this month. He signed a one-year extension last offseason to stick around for a fourth year as the team’s offensive coordinator, but there’s a possibility he will move on and seek a new opportunity elsewhere in 2022, according to NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero.
#Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s contract is expiring, per sources.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 7, 2022
So after getting passed over for head coaching opportunities again, Bieniemy could either return to Kansas City or be a hot free-agent OC target elsewhere.
There is a sense in some NFL circles that Bieniemy may need to step away from Reid’s staff to fulfill his ultimate coaching ambitions.
Bieniemy is a New Orleans native who became a star running back at Colorado in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
After a nine-year NFL playing career, which ended in 1999 with Reid in Philadelphia, Bieniemy spent five seasons as a college assistant coach before breaking into the NFL coaching ranks as a running backs coach with the Minnesota Vikings in 2006.
He was promoted to assistant head coach with the Vikings in 2010 before returning to his college alma mater as the Buffaloes’ offensive coordinator for two seasons.
Reid hired Bieniemy as running backs coach in 2013. He was bumped up to offensive coordinator in 2018 after Matt Nagy left to become the head coach in Chicago.
The Chiefs led the NFL in scoring offense during Bieniemy’s first season as OC — averaging 35.3 points per game, which is the sixth-highest mark in NFL history.
Kansas City also led the NFL in total offense in 2018 and 2020, while never finishing worse than sixth in either category during the last four years.
Despite Reid’s endorsement for a head-coaching job, both last year and this year, Bieniemy remains stuck at the coordinator level, but he has downplayed any personal disappointment publicly after being passed over repeatedly.
Bieniemy has interviewed with 14 NFL teams during the last four hiring cycles, including the New York Jets twice.
He was passed over in 2019 by Tampa Bay (Bruce Arians), the Jets (Adam Gase), Miami (Brian Flores) and Cincinnati (Zac Taylor).
A year later, in conjunction with the Chiefs’ victory in Super Bowl LIV, three more teams — Cleveland (Kevin Stefanski), the New York Giants (Joe Judge) and Carolina (Matt Rhule) — interviewed Bieniemy before hiring someone else.
The NFL made changes to the Rooney Rule in 2020, requiring teams to interview two minority candidates for head coach and general manager jobs and one for coordinator positions.
Last year was the busiest for Bieniemy, who interviewed with six teams and also had an interview request from Philadelphia (Nick Sirianni).
Atlanta (Arthur Smith), Detroit (Dan Campbell), the Los Angeles Chargers (Brandon Staley), Jacksonville (Urban Meyer), the Jets (Robert Saleh) and Houston (David Culley) were hired over Bieniemy during the 2021 hiring cycle.
Earlier this month, Bieniemy interviewed with Denver, which hired Nathaniel Hackett from Green Bay, and New Orleans, who chose to promote former defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.
Even before missing out on the Saints job, Bieniemy’s plight caught the attention of lawyers for Flores, the former Dolphins coach who was fired after three seasons and has sued the NFL over alleged discrimination in the hiring process.
Flores’ lawsuit also singles out the Broncos and Giants, two teams that interviewed but didn’t hire Bieniemy.
The class-action complaint mentioned Bieniemy prominently in asserting NFL teams have engaged in a pattern of “not doing the interviews (with Black candidates) in good-faith.”