The Rooney Rule was adopted by the NFL in 2003 as a way to encourage minority hires in the coaching ranks. It was a good first step toward progress but there is a long way to go. There are only five minority head coaches in the NFL in 2021: Mike Tomlin, Robert Saleh, Ron Rivera, Brian Flores, David Culley.
One guy that can’t seem to catch a break is Eric Bieniemy. The offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs has been in charge of arguably the most explosive offense in football over the past four years. Inexplicably, Bieniemy can’t land a head-coaching gig. Now the talk is of him heading to college and interviewing at USC.
“There’s no way in the world you can tell me that EB should not be a head coach right now,” former Eagles great Brian Dawkins told Heavy. “And they’re talking about he’s going to be the USC coach? I don’t get that. There are other individuals that are younger than him that are getting jobs because they have that tag of a wonder, a brilliant mind. So you’re telling me that Eric Bieniemy doesn’t have a brilliant mind?”
Bieniemy and Dawkins overlapped for one year with the Eagles in 1999, plus the Chiefs offensive coordinator works under Andy Reid. What’s the disconnect? No one knows. Reid has thrown his support behind Bieniemy many times. According to Dawkins, it’s about NFL owners breaking their routines. They aren’t hanging at the same country clubs or restaurants.
“Getting out of that comfort zone and taking a chance on these individuals,” Dawkins said. “They may not have the tag of being the wonder boys, the new wave, and all of those things, and so sometimes because of not having a tag like that, you don’t see the significance that person can have.”
Until that happens, the diversity problem is always going to be the elephant in Roger Goodell’s mansion.
“It’s just a shame that it continues to go down the same path over and over and over again,” Dawkins said. “No matter how many things are trying to be done when it comes to that, the Rooney Rule and all that, the fact that you had to put a rule in to have owners come up and actually interview African-Americans or minorities, that’s horrible.”
Dawkins wanted to single out one more individual, too. His former teammate Duce Staley who got passed over repeatedly in Philadelphia before taking his talents to the Detroit Lions this past offseason. He’s assistant head coach and running backs coach there.
“He had to go somewhere else. Duce had to go to Detroit now and hopefully Duce will get his shot,” Dawkins said. “It’s a shame that these individuals that have played in the game, had success in the game, and can coach aren’t getting those opportunities.”
As far as Dawkins ever picking up the Motorola headset or play-calling sheet, don’t bank on it.
“I don’t see me ever being a coach, too much time away from my family,” Dawkins said.
Good News, NFL Safest It’s Ever Been
When safety K’Von Wallace got flagged for unnecessary roughness last Sunday, it negated a fumble recovery by the Eagles. The jarring hit was indubitably to the head area of Trey Sermon, hence the laundry. But, in the spur of the moment, Wallace had to make a decision whether to tackle or not tackle a running back who was low to the ground.
He thought he made the right play. The NFL doesn’t allow it.
“We don’t really talk about, ‘Is this a bad call, is this a good call?’ You move on and you play,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said. “I think that – especially for myself, that one play that happened with K’Von: ‘Okay, what’s the down and distance, what’s the personnel in the game?’”
Dawkins serves as a pseudo-mentor to Wallace, a personal sounding board bonded by faith and family. The former All-Pro safety thinks the officials made the right call. Why? Because that’s the way the game has gone. It’s all about protecting players and limiting concussions.
“Right now the NFL’s the safest it’s ever been as far as playing rules, concussions, because of the way they’re calling games,” Dawkins said. “You’ll never be able to take concussions out of the game, but you can come up with rules that help the players play the game better.”
This wasn’t the case when Dawkins was coming up, not at the professional level or in Pop Warner. Guys were hitting each other full throttle and watching the highlight-reel hits on ESPN. The times they are a-changing, to quote Bob Dylan.
“Coaches are understanding that you teach a different way now and they do,” Dawkins said. “One of the issues with individuals who grew up the way I grew up, we weren’t taught those things. So it was hard to then change the way you had tackled your whole life. And then learn something new. I was able to do it.
“But you see these young players now, they are growing up with this so the likelihood of some of the more vicious and violent hits we had lessens dramatically because of what’s being taught from the ground rules of football. Like I said, football is the safest it’s ever been with the possibility of it being safer going forward as more individuals growing up learn how to better tackle.”
Grading B-Dawk’s Most Violent Hit
The debate over the biggest hit of Dawkins’ career usually starts and ends with two names: Michael Vick and Alge Crumpler. The latter came in the 2004 NFC Championship Game and set the tone for what would result in the only Super Bowl appearance for that talented team. Meanwhile, the one on Vick literally knocked Dawkins out.
Yet there was another bone-crunching collision that deserves consideration. It was the time Weapon X was first introduced to The Bus in 2000. That’s right, Dawkins (190 pounds) flexed on Jerome Bettis (252 pounds).
“That was a stick, Jack, they don’t remember that,” Dawkins said. “I was probably about 190 pounds when I hit Bus.”
Dawkins puts Vick and Crumpler up there with the Bettis hit. Like his children, it’s tough to pick a favorite. There was also a hit on former Carolina Panthers running back Fred Lane that stands out. Dawkins called it his most violent and arguably the soundest stick of his career.
“Beautiful, flush, powerful,” Dawkins said. “And from a hitter’s perspective, it was probably one of my most awesome hits because I was able to derive so much power within just a couple of steps and still be able to run through him. So that might be the perfect text book way of striking somebody.”