Eric Bieniemy’s next job won’t be a promotion to the top rung of coaching from the offensive coordinator job he held with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Washington Commanders announced Bieniemy as the team’s new assistant head coach and offensive coordinator on Sat. In Washington, Bieniemy will be charged with improving an offense that ranked 24th in scoring and 27th in yards per play last season.
Bieniemy will also call plays for the first time in his NFL coaching career. In Kansas City, head coach Andy Reid was responsible for the play-calling, while Bieniemy had an extensive role in developing the game plan. In Washington, there will also be a significant question mark at quarterback. Head coach Ron Rivera said second-year quarterback Sam Howell has the inside track for the starting job for the 2023 season, with veteran Carson Wentz still on the roster as of now.
Bieniemy, 53, was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator since 2018. With Patrick Mahomes as quarterback, the offense consistently ranked among the best in the league. He helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl 54 to cap a season in which Kansas City had the top-ranked offense. This past season, Mahomes captured his second career MVP award as the Chiefs won Super Bowl 57.
After the game, Reid specifically mentioned Bieniemy as a catalyst for the Chiefs’ success. During owners’ meetings last year, he made a passionate plea for Bieniemy to receive a head-coaching opportunity, per multiple reports.
“Eric Bieniemy has been tremendous for us and I think he’s tremendous for the National Football League,” Reid said in a news conference Monday. “I’m hoping he has an opportunity to go somewhere and do his thing, where he can run the show and be Eric Bieniemy.”
Bieniemy also interviewed for the head-coaching role with the Indianapolis Colts, who on Monday hired former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.
Eric Bieniemy’s trajectory
Prior to his promotion to offensive coordinator, Bieniemy was the Chiefs’ running backs coach (2013-17). He held the same role with the Minnesota Vikings from 2006-2010.
Bieniemy began his coaching career at his alma mater, Colorado. He coached running backs in 2001-02 and was the running backs coach at UCLA from 2003-05, adding the title of recruiting coordinator his final year there.
In 1990, Bieniemy won the national championship as a senior running back for the Buffaloes and was named a consensus All-American. He was drafted in the second round of the 1991 draft by the then-San Diego Chargers and played eight seasons in the league.
Advocates for racial representation among coaches feared the odds of Bieniemy landing a head job job as head coach dwindled with each passing year. Bieniemy’s plight has been emblematic of the upward mobility obstacles many Black coaches in the league face.
According to USA TODAY Sports research, which tracked interviews using team announcements and news media reports, 15 different teams have interviewed Bieniemy in the past five hiring cycles.
Now, he’s heading to the Commanders, still as an offensive coordinator.
Rivera relieved former Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner shortly after last season ended. The search included interviews with:
Thomas Brown, Los Angeles Rams assistant head coach/tight ends coachCharles London, Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks coachAnthony Lynn, former Chargers head coach and current San Francisco 49ers assistant head coach/running backs coachGreg Roman, former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinatorPat Shurmur, former NFL head coach offensive coordinatorEric Studesville, Miami Dolphins associate head coach/running backs coachKen Zampese, Commanders quarterbacks coach
Who replaces Bieniemy in Kansas City?
In accordance with the Rooney Rule, the Chiefs will have to interview at least one external minority candidate for their offensive coordinator vacancy. Quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy, however, is a leading candidate for the the job, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported.
Nagy served as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator from 2016-17 before being hired as the Chicago Bears’ head coach. He returned to the staff this past fall after he was let go by the Bears.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.