Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has long sought to become an NFL coach and remains intent on that goal whenever Kansas City's season ends, but sources close to him believe he would consider the opening at USC.
Bieniemy grew up in Southern California, went to high school not too far from campus, and has been familiar with the program his entire life. In January, the longtime Andy Reid assistant once again had numerous interviews for NFL head coaching positions, though the timing of another Chiefs run to the Super Bowl played some role in his return, with the league's rules about when coaches can be hired still seemingly arcane to some. Timing could again be an issue should USC want to complete its hire by Thanksgiving or so for recruiting purposes, but it is one of a few select college openings Bieniemy would be open to, I'm told, if the process played out in the right manner.
In the past, Bieniemy has not pursued some college opportunities. He spent his adult life playing in the NFL and coaching there, and that is undoubtedly still his dream. But after years of being passed over for opportunities by what many would say are less-qualified candidates, and with the NFL still lacking the diversity the league office is seeking in the head-coaching ranks, USC, with it's storied history and location and potential to be a giant in the college game again, would be the kind of job several people close to Bieniemy believe would resonate with him.
"It's sad that it would come to that," said one prominent member of the NFL coaching community who has ties to Bieniemy, "because this is a man who should already be a head coach in our league. But that is the kind of job you would have to entertain, especially with what Eric has been through the past few years. I don't know how you categorically say no to USC."
Increasingly, top college programs are seeking out head coaches with pro experience, and recruiting is becoming more like how NFL teams operate in terms of talent evaluation. And for many experienced African American coaches, the NCAA is being viewed as the far more likely opportunity to run their own program and gain head coaching experience.
"If things don't change, you are going to see more and more guys taking that jump," said one agent, who represents primarily coaches. "You have to ask yourself at some point, what other choice do guys like Eric Bieniemy really have if this is the way things are going in the NFL?"
Many college and pro coaches and executives believe there will be more premier college jobs opening up, with the chatter about LSU growing quite intense, and that is another program that is expected to take a long look at several candidates with extensive NFL experience if a coaching change is made.
Bieniemy told reporters last week that his sole focus is on coaching the Chiefs to the best of his abilities and helping them advance as far as possible in the postseason. That will remain the case, while opportunities outside of the NFL very well could come his way.
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