Commanders’ Eric Bieniemy focused on OC role, ‘excited’ to call plays: ‘Right now my feet are planted right here’
Eric Bieniemy was introduced on Thursday as the new offensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the Washington Commanders, a job some feel could finally springboard him into a head-coaching opportunity.
Bieniemy, however, quashed the notion that he’s leaving the Kansas City Chiefs just so he can be a head coach somewhere else.
“Being a head coach right now is not in my thought process,” Bieniemy told reporters. “I live in the moment. I’ve got to be where my feet are. Right now my feet are planted right here.”
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A tough but fair follow-up question: Why Washington? After all, the team’s QB situation is unsettled — Sam Howell currently is in line to be QB1 — and owners Dan and Tanya Snyder are exploring a potential sale of the franchise. Head coach Ron Rivera also might not be on the soundest of footing, job security-wise, heading into Year 4 .
Bieniemy turned the question on its head.
“Why not Washington?” he said. “Look at all the talent. Look at the players they have. … I have never backed down from a challenge. I embrace this challenge.”
Rivera appeared pleased with locking down Bieniemy to take control of an offense in flux.
“We got our guy,” Rivera said as he introduced Bieniemy on Thursday.
Bieniemy was officially named the Commanders’ offensive coordinator last week, replacing Scott Turner. There was curiosity why Bieniemy would leave such a successful operation in Kansas City — fresh off a win in Super Bowl LVII — for anything less than a head-coaching job. But no such offer has come in over the past five seasons he’s held the role as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, during which he has helped lead the team to two titles in three Super Bowl appearances.
Bieniemy had one head-coaching interview this cycle, with the Indianapolis Colts, but he’s believed to have interviewed with roughly half of the league’s teams over the past five years. He reflected on the aftermath of the Super Bowl run — and the lack of bigger opportunities in the interim.
“The past two weeks have been physically and emotionally draining in a good way,” Bieniemy said. “I knew that it was time to move on.”
Some of the narrative has been that Bieniemy needed to escape the giant shadow of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. However, less successful coordinators have received head-coaching offers in that same timeframe. Plus, two former Reid lieutenants in Kansas City — Matt Nagy and Doug Pederson — received head-coaching jobs previously, with Pederson getting another shot with the Jacksonville Jaguars after being parting ways with the Eagles following the 2020 season.
If Bieniemy was bitter about his path, he didn’t display that on Thursday.
“One thing in this profession you learn: Comfort is the enemy of progress,” he said. “I’m about accepting challenges moving forward. On top of that, I’m willing to embrace this journey.”
Bieniemy will be calling plays full time with the Commanders next season for the first time, although Reid has let it be known — leading up to the Super Bowl and almost immediately after beating the Eagles — that his former assistant was very involved with the offensive planning and structure.
Bieniemy laid out a somewhat vague picture of his expectations for Washington’s offense but did leave a few clues as to how he’ll run things.
“I just want to make sure that these guys understand that there’s a way in which I know how to do it,” Bieniemy said, adding he’s “fired up and excited” to call plays.
“But on top of that, I’ve got to make sure that I’m putting these guys in the best situation to be the most explosive, the most dynamic, and also, more importantly, giving us the best opportunity to be successful.
“… When it’s all said and done with, we’re going to play hard, we’re going to play fast, we’re going to have a sense of urgency and a sense of purpose in everything that we do. That’s where it starts, and it’s all about being accountable as well — understanding the fact that indirectly, we all impact each other’s lives. It’s my job to make sure I’m doing what is right by them, but on top of that, they’ve got to make sure that they’re doing right by each other.”
Several Commanders players — Howell, wide receiver Terry McLaurin, running back Brian Robinson, among others — attended Bieniemy’s news conference to hear his words. Whenever the topic veered toward Bieniemy’s future head-coaching prospects, he made sure to turn the focus back toward his new team and offensive players he’ll be leading.
“Today I’ve got to be the best person I can be, I’ve got to be the best coach that I can be and on top of that, I’ve got to get these guys in this building to learn to trust me, to get to know me but also understand what the term accountability means,” he said. “So I have to be accountable to these men. All that stuff about being a head coach, we can talk about that next year some time. Right now, I’m focused on the job at hand.”
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