Eric Bieniemy should be in Las Vegas right now. But due to either a lack of self-belief, patience, listening to bad advice, or a combination of all three, arguably the best offensive coordinator in football is waiting around to see if he still has a job
Sometimes staying put is the best option.
According to a report from ProFootballTalk, the Commanders are “working through” Bieniemy’s situation as Kliff Kingsbury has been hired as the team’s new offensive coordinator as they begin the Dan Quinn era. The issue is expected to be addressed Monday afternoon/evening.
Almost a year to the day, Bieniemy was taking part in his introductory press conference as the new offensive coordinator of the Washington Commanders. Twelve months later, he’ll be watching his old team — the Kansas City Chiefs — play in their fourth Super Bowl in five years, and their first without him.
Hindsight isn’t just 20/20, in Bieniemy’s case, looking back at the things that were said that day is a roadmap to this moment.
“Maybe this’ll be a good thing for Eric, which I’m hoping for. We’re going to live in the now, and that’s about winning football games.”
That’s what former Commanders head coach Ron Rivera said at the press conference when it was announced that the man who guided Patrick Mahomes to either the AFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl in every season they worked together was coming to take over his offense.
Rivera was fired last month, the Commanders have a new coaching staff, and Bieniemy may be out of a job.
Over the years, Bieniemy has been the face of inequality when it comes to how head coaches are hired in the NFL. Some pointed to the sins of his past, but those same people ignored the missteps of white job candidates. Others pointed to the fact that Andy Reid was the true offensive genius in Kansas City, but yet Mahomes and the Chiefs offense had their worst year since No. 15 has been the starter in the very same season that Bieniemy wasn’t around. And then there were the idiots who believed that a lateral move was forward progress.
“The move gives Bieniemy his first chance to shine outside of the shadow of Andy Reid and two-time MVP Patrick Mahomes,” reads an article from FOX 5 Washington DC from last February, in which it also mentions that Bieniemy “interviewed 16 times for 15 different NFL head coaching jobs in past years.”
Almost 20 times, owners in the NFL had shown us that they didn’t want Bieniemy, which is a level of rejection that a white coach with his resume would never endure. But for some reason, after 16 times, people — and Bieniemy — convinced themselves that doing the same job in Washington would lead to him getting the job that he’s been denied for years.
“I have to be accountable to these men, so all that stuff about being a head coach, we could talk about that next year sometime,” Bieniemy said during his press conference. “Right now, I’m focused on the job at hand.”
That job came at a place that thrives on dysfunction.
Washington is a franchise where the brass still refer to the team as a racial slur. Washington is a place that has been riddled with disgusting scandals and management malpractice for decades. The Commanders are a team that uses Jason Wright (the first Black team president in NFL history) and Magic Johnson (four percent ownership stake) as diversity props. But despite all that, people actually thought a place like Washington was the place where Bieniemy — with the likes of Sam Howell and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback — could “do his thing” in hopes that it would lead to a head coaching job elsewhere or as Rivera’s successor.
People thought wrong because people are dumb.
From the very beginning, the only people who could possibly benefit from Bieniemy taking the job in Washington were the folks in Washington. And when he got there, players complained that his standards were too high, as they didn’t like dealing with a winner.
“I had a number of guys come to me and I said, ‘Hey, just go talk to him(Bieniemy).’ I said, ‘Understand what he’s trying to get across to you.’ I think as they go and they talk and they listen to him, it’s been enlightening for a lot of these guys,” said Rivera back in August.
Now, both Rivera and Bieniemy are at home. One is gone because he couldn’t hack it as a head coach. The other’s career is in limbo because he hasn’t been able to prove if he could or couldn’t hack it as a head coach.
As Bieniemy has endlessly interviewed over the last few years, his loudest advocates were always the people who worked closest with him — Mahomes and Reid. To some, it was two coworkers trying to tell the world that he had “the goods.” But in hindsight, it feels like it was two men who understood that Kansas City was always the best place for him.
When Jerod Mayo was announced as Bill Belichick’s successor in New England, we found out that he already had it in his contract. If Bieniemy were smart, he’d call his agent and see if he could get his old job back in Kansas City, with a similar caveat in his deal. If going back home worked for the Prodigal Son, it can work for Bieniemy.