March 1, 2024

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Eric Bieniemy is running out of NFL options

Eric Bieniemy is running out of NFL options

One of the subplot surprises of Super Bowl week arrived on Wednesday, when Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid revealed that Eric Bieniemy He met with the team's offensive players and helped with some of the play-setting Before the AFC Championship game against the Ravens.

This is interesting because as of now, Bieniemy doesn't have a job in the NFL. Bieniemy spent last season as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach for Ron Rivera's staff in Washington, but lost his job amid the recent regime change. Washington, which of course it was Very natural On their entire coaching search, thank you Bieniemy had interviewed for the top vacancy, but it seemed like he knew his days there were numbered in time to give him permission to visit the Chiefs two weeks ago. Dan Quinn ended up getting the head coaching job in DC and hired Kliff Kingsbury as his offensive coordinator. Quinn made it clear in his introductory press conference that Bieniemy was already out. He was fired with one year remaining on his contract. according to the Washington Post.

This puts Bieniemy in a curious position: he is coveted by the best team in the league, but not wanted by the rest. So, what gives?

Based on the performance of Leaders 4 through 13, Bieniemy stock may not have been at an all-time high heading into this hiring cycle. He didn't decide to play with struggling quarterback Sam Howell for most of the season (that was Rivera), but he should bear some responsibility for the strange decision to include Howell. League leadership On passing attempts behind a porous offensive line, despite providing a good running game.

But Bieniemy's resume isn't the problem. Nor his plans. The problem is that, along with most of the league, Bieniemy seems to be losing the popularity contest.

His tenure in Washington was marked by tense relations. Early in training camp, Rivera himself said from the podium that players came to him “a little concerned” about Bieniemy’s high intensity of practices, a complaint that has lingered throughout the season. This week, according to A Washington Post storyplayers who worked with Bieniemy described “a hard-working coach whose efforts were hampered by poor communication, stubborn play calling, and disregard for player feedback.”

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That's similar to what the Record's tight end, Logan Thomas, told reporters after the team's season-ending loss to the Cowboys last month.

I might be the only one saying that, but I think we have our ups and downs [with Bieniemy]Thomas said. “We had some good, we had some bad. It's one of those things where something new comes along after you've been used to something else for a few years, and sometimes you can butt heads. But I respect him because he comes to work every day, and because he's the same person.” every day.

There have been reports in the past that Bieniemy He doesn't do interviews well, although at least one team that met him denied that was the case. However, since 2019, Bieniemy has interviewed for a head coaching job 17 times with 16 teams. that it Half the league. Every offseason from 2019-2022, he interviewed with at least two, and six of the seven teams to open in 2021 brought him on. None of those led to a head coaching opportunity. For whatever reason, when Bieniemy walks into the room with NFL owners, things don't go well for him.

It's a fraught dynamic, given that Bieniemy has become the embodiment of the NFL's failures to recruit minorities, especially to senior positions. There's also something strange about this, as the Chiefs, the organization that knows him better than anyone else, love Having Eric Bieniemy in the room. Patrick Mahomes said Wednesday that Bieniemy's return to the huddle has led to a tangible change in energy among Kansas City's offensive players.

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“It's always nice to have EB,” Mahomes said. “The energy he brings, the mentality he brings, you can feel it…just having him back in the building was really nice. I think the guys have a little [goosebumps] Like, “Hey, EB's back.”

Reed, who has privately gone to bat for Bieniemy in major league circles in the past, echoed that support.

“Obviously I'm a big fan of his, and I know the things he can do,” Reed said Wednesday.

Bieniemy will likely end up back with Kansas City in an official role next season, although the Chiefs offensive coordinator position belongs to Matt Nagy, whose job seems unlikely to change. Reed said Wednesday that he doesn't have a place for Bieniemy “right now,” and perhaps did so in keeping with his position that someone else needs to offer this guy a job.

Bieniemy could do a lot worse than taking on a role on the Reds' staff, coaching the NFL's best player, but a return to Kansas City would be a depressing referendum on why Bieniemy went to Washington in the first place. Last year, Bieniemy made what was essentially a lateral move (to a much worse franchise). One of the attractive features of the Washington job is that it came with play-calling duties, which Reed holds in Kansas City. It seemed like Bieniemy was making this leap in hopes of checking off the one box left on his coaching candidate's to-do list. Expecting him to do so would have been a double standard, and despite Washington's struggles, it's hard not to feel like the rug has been pulled from under him. It wasn't a direct path to a head coaching job, and now there's no path to a job that requires playing in 2024, either. Not only did he have just one, seemingly routine, interview with the head coach in Washington, he wasn't getting calls to fill multiple offensive coordinator vacancies in the NFL this cycle either. Only the OC job in Seattle remains open. Bieniemy didn't even interview for jobs that went to guys like Luke Getsy, Ken Dorsey, Alex Van Pelt, Nick Holz and Zac Robinson. Although three of the eight head coaches hired this cycle are black (the fourth new coach, Dave Canales, is Mexican, meaning half the head jobs went to minority coaches this cycle), none of the new offensive coordinators They are, and it's a worrying trend for the team. The NFL is reflecting on the league's efforts in programs to improve diversity in the ranks of offensive assistant coaches.

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“Offensive assistants are young. They need to be able to be exposed to experiences in order to grow, to be able to have that kind of experience to become offensive coordinators and then head coaches,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this week. “I think it's too early to say it's not working. “I don’t accept that at this stage.”

So what are Bieniemy's options now? Perhaps Bieniemy, who served as Colorado's offensive coordinator in 2011 and 2012 before joining the Chiefs staff, could return to the college game. The pass-heavy attacks he ran in Washington could be a good fit for many teams running spread-centric schemes.

A simple change in environment can be a good thing too. A year later, after one of the most significant moves of his career aimed at finally landing the elusive head coaching job, Bieniemy is back where he was last offseason: beloved by the best team but an afterthought to the rest.