On any list of current NFL-related injustices, none seem to rank higher or cause more widespread concern about equality than Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy going 0-for-7 in head coaching interviews a year after five other teams passed on him.
"I did not ask to be the poster boy of this particular situation that I have experienced," Bieniemy, who is Black, said Tuesday from Tampa, where the defending champion Chiefs will play the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV on Sunday.
"At the end of the day, the only thing you want to be recognized for is for all the things that you have accomplished. And for whatever reason that has not happened. And that's OK because the only thing I know is to go back to work and continue chopping wood because that is what Fern St. Cyr … taught me to do. If you don't know who that was, that's my mother. She raised me to make sure I stayed focused and just continue chopping wood."
Bieniemy grew up poor in New Orleans. His parents divorced when he was 10. He moved with his mom to California and kept chopping wood.
"I learned a long time ago about how to persevere through adversity," Bieniemy said. "But the beauty of it is not so much that I have to persevere because that's going to take care of itself.
"What's important right now is making sure that whatever is taking place with Eric Bieniemy isn't becoming a distraction to us achieving our dreams and goals with the Kansas City Chiefs."
Spoken like a true head coach. Or, hopefully, a future head coach.
Bieniemy is 51. He played nine seasons as a running back with the Chargers, Bengals and Eagles, where he finished up in 1999, Andy Reid's first year in Philadelphia.
When Brad Childress, Reid's offensive coordinator, got the Vikings head coaching job in 2006, he reached into the college ranks to give Bieniemy, then at UCLA, his first NFL coaching job. He was running backs coach in Minnesota from 2006-09 and assistant head coach in 2010.
The guy was hard-nosed and more of a screamer back then, but he proved his work ethic, intelligence and ability to gain respect in a locker room.
Today, he's in Year 8 as an assistant under Reid. Bieniemy has spent the past three years as the offensive coordinator.
Year 1 as coordinator was Patrick Mahomes' first as a starter. Mahomes won MVP, went 12-4 and threw for 50 touchdowns and 5,097 yards.
Year 2 as coordinator, the Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in half a century. Year 3, they're looking to become the first repeat champion since the Patriots in 2003-04.
Add up all three seasons, and the Chiefs are 38-10 and rank first in points, yards and yards per play.
Well, you say, Reid is the primary play-caller.
Yeah, but that didn't stop Bieniemy's two predecessors — Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy — from landing head coaching jobs. Nor did it stop the Lions from hiring Dan Campbell or the Eagles from hiring Nick Sirianni in recent weeks. (All four of those coaches are white.)
Well, you say, Bieniemy's never been a head coach.
Yeah, but Reid's coaching tree is sturdy. Pederson and John Harbaugh went from first-time head coaches to Super Bowl winners.
Of the seven NFL head-coaching vacancies, two went to minority coaches — the Jets' Robert Saleh and Houston's David Culley. That caused the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes diversity in the NFL, to issue a statement calling the situation "mind-boggling."
Reid, meanwhile, has been praising Bieniemy's head coaching credentials on the game's grandest stage the past two years. He also said he spoke to the teams that interviewed Bieniemy in the past month.
"I'll be curious to hear their comments about how he did and why he wasn't picked," Reid said. "Eric Bieniemy works his tail off. He is relentless in studying the game. He's relentless in studying what his [approach] would be as a head football coach.
"This guy doesn't miss a beat. He was that way as a player, and he's been that way as a coach. I don't understand everything. I'm not an owner. I don't sit in those meetings. But I would just tell you that whoever gets him, whenever they get him, will be very, very lucky."
Bieniemy's stalemate with a head coaching opportunity comes at a time when the Super Bowl will feature four Black coordinators and two female assistants. The Bucs have three Black coordinators — Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich and Keith Armstrong — and two female assistants, assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar and assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust.
Asked about the four Black coordinators, Bieniemy said, "First of all, we're all in the Super Bowl together so that says a lot about what we've accomplished.
"But I will say you don't ever want to be recognized for what you do by your race or your color. You want to be recognized in this profession by how great of a coach you are or how much of a leader of men you are, or how much of an influence over people that you can have. Those are the things that matter.
"Yes, we do have four [Black] coordinators who are going to be participating in this Super Bowl. Only thing that says is there are four men who have worked their tails off and have been given an opportunity by Coach Reid and Coach Arians to show exactly who they are, what they're about and what they can accomplish.
"So why do we got to keep talking about the color of these particular coordinators? When in reality this isn't anything but good old-fashioned ball coaches who are doing a great job of leading men. There are great coaches in this league and plenty more need to be given the same opportunities and same windows to go through."
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: email@example.com