Race and the Probability of Becoming a Head Coach for NFL Coordinators Since the Introduction of the Rooney Rule: Why Isn't Eric Bieniemy a Head Coach yet?

Joshua D. Pitts, Kennesaw State University
Brent Evans, Georgia College & State University
John D. Johnson, Kennesaw State University


A great deal of media attention has been given to the scarcity of black head-coaches in the NFL. Using data on coordinators for every NFL season since the introduction of the Rooney Rule in 2003, the authors estimated several probit regressions to examine how various factors, including race, were correlated with a coordinator's probability of becoming a head coach. There was evidence that, all else equal, black coordinators who played in the NFL have been less likely to be promoted than similar non-black coordinators. Furthermore, there was evidence that black coordinators were significantly less likely to be promoted between 2018 and 2020. The analysis also suggested that a lack of black coordinators who played quarterback or tight-end in college as well as a lack of black coordinators with experience coaching the tight-end and wide-receiver positions in the NFL have contributed to the low number of black head-coaches. The authors also examine the specific case of Eric Bieniemy by using the empirical model to compare Bieniemy's probability of promotion with those of other relevant coaches. This analysis offers several potential explanations as to why Bieniemy has yet to receive a head-coaching opportunity.