When “Black Monday” — the annual day when NFL head coaches get fired after the regular season — takes place in January, the last two offensive coordinators that have won Super Bowls will more than likely find themselves in a situation where they’ll be watching a younger colleague yet to make the playoffs get job interviews that should be theirs.
This is surely going to be the story of Kellen Moore, Eric Bieniemy, and Byron Leftwich — as it’s the plight of Black coaches in the NFL.
“This is a guy whose name you’re gonna hear when people are interviewing for head coaches next January,” ESPN NFL Insider Dan Graziano said of Moore on a recent episode of Max Kellerman’s This Just In.
The chyron at the bottom of the screen for the segment read, “Chances Kellen Moore is offered a head coach position in NFL.”
NFL analyst Jeff Saturday added this: “Kellen Moore’s play-calling with the zone scheme, and the different schemes they have, for their offensive line … He’s putting the game in the hands of the quarterback, which is what you want when you’re on the field.”
Moore isn’t the problem. His privilege is.
If Moore’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he was the quarterback at Boise State when they were at their peak of national exposure during the Chris Petersen era. In his third season as Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator, at the age of 33, Moore has shown why he’s destined to be a head coach one day. In 2019, Dallas had the best offense in the league and averaged 431.5 yards per game. In 2020, they dipped to 14th with Dak Prescott out due to injury, finishing with an average of 371.8 yards per contest. And this season, the Cowboys are ranked fifth as they’ve totaled 416.7 yards per game through their first three weeks. Moore has been really good as an offensive coordinator. But, good enough to jump to the front of the line?
His offense hasn’t won a playoff game, let alone qualified for the postseason yet. But, do you know whose offense already has?
Super Bowl champions Eric Bieniemy and Byron Leftwich. The two Black OCs met in last year’s Big Game, Bieniemy’s second-straight trip with the Chiefs and Leftwich’s first with the Bucs.
“You guys know how I feel about Eric,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said in January of 2020. “I think he’d be tremendous. There’s a team out there — I don’t know the team, but there’s a team out there — that could really use him. Being the leader of men that he is, you’re not going to find people better than that in that category. And he’s a sharp offensive mind on top of that. So I’m a big fan. Don’t want to lose him, but reality is, there’s a good chance that happens.”
Bieniemy has been interviewed at least 13 times over the last few years and still hasn’t been offered a head coaching job, although he’s a vital part of the game’s most explosive offense.
After spending two seasons coaching quarterbacks with the Cardinals, Leftwich is in his third season as offensive coordinator — like Moore — with the Bucs, and has gone from a guy who used to play against Tom Brady, as a quarterback, to coaching him.
“I was very, very pissed that Byron didn’t at least get an interview this year,” said Bucs head coach Bruce Arians earlier this year. “For the job that he’s done, I think I get way too much credit and so does Tom Brady for the job that Byron has done. Hopefully next year people will see that he took Jameis Winston and broke every single record here, scoring and passing, and now Tom has broken both.”
With it already looking like there could be potential job openings in Chicago (Matt Nagy) and Jacksonville (Urban Meyer), by the time Black Monday rolls around, it’ll be interesting to see which coordinators will get most of the attention, although a lot of it will go to Moore as he’s already being mentioned after Week 3.
The lack of diversity among its head coaches has become a yearly headache for the NFL, as some white fans and team owners are tired of hearing about the subject, while Black coaches are exhausted from being passed over or brought in for fake interviews just so teams can say they observed the Rooney Rule — which has been broken for years.
This isn’t just a Black thing, either.
In May, Eugene Chung said he was told by an NFL team that he was “not the right minority.”
“It was said to me, ‘Well, you’re really not a minority,” Chung explained. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute. The last time I checked, when I looked in the mirror and brushed my teeth, I was a minority.’”
To save face, the league “looked into the matter,” but wasn’t able to find anything that would hold the guilty party accountable for the lack of respect for anybody outside of a white man that wants to be a coach in the NFL.
“After multiple discussions, including with Mr. Chung and his representative, we were unable to confirm the precise statement that was made, or by whom and under what circumstances any such statement was made,” the league said in a statement.
Things like this — along with that conversation on ESPN — are why I know Moore is going to be the hottest name on the market in a few months, while Bieniemy and Leftwich will be left with their Super Bowl ring covered hands in their pants. And for those that think that Moore’s rise is similar to that of Steve Nash’s in the NBA — as he was named head coach of the Brooklyn Nets in 2020 after many felt like he skipped a line full of Black coaches, it’s not. Nash was an eight-time NBA All-Star that won back-to-back MVPs, and is in the Hall of Fame. Moore completed 61 passes in his NFL career and threw more interceptions (6) than touchdowns (4).
This is going to wind up being a situation in which the race has been decided before it even starts, due to the racism of NFL owners and GMs, and the league’s inability to hold them accountable for their prejudiced hiring practices. I’ve seen this movie before. And in the end, the good guy never wins. The white one does.