Bieniemy's future uncertain as Commanders look for their next coach
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Eric Bieniemy went to Washington in part to run an offense under a defensive-minded coach and show what he could do away from Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes.
That defensive-minded coach is gone, and now it looks like Bieniemy's calculated risk did not work out.
Following the firing of Ron Rivera and an inconsistent season that saw the Commanders finish with the 24th-ranked offense, Bieniemy's future is uncertain. He remains employed by the team as ownership goes through the search for a head of football operations and a coach, though the most likely scenario is that Bieniemy goes elsewhere.
Asked what he thought of Bieniemy's performance as offensive coordinator and if he'd be considered for the head job — one that has eluded him despite more than a dozen interviews around the NFL — controlling owner Josh Harris implied the former Kansas City assistant would be in the mix.
“I’ve enjoyed working with Eric and, obviously, he’s had success over the years," Harris said. "If I could write the script, (we would be) having our senior football operations executive in place and then approaching the coaching search with Eric and others.”
Rivera last week said he still thinks Bieniemy can be a head coach in the league.
“You never know what people are thinking,” Rivera said. “I think the biggest thing for Eric is the things that he’s learned. And hopefully he’ll take those things and continue to use them and help him grow. But we’ll see. I mean, you never know what people are thinking or what people are looking for.”
Commanders players didn't seem to be looking for what Bieniemy gave them this season. Questions about Bieniemy in recent days brought varying degrees of compliments for his consistency as a person but more criticism than praise from inside the locker room.
“I wanted to run the ball more,” right guard Sam Cosmi said when asked generally about playing for Bieniemy. “I felt like we weren’t balanced. I think we were 30th in the league in attempts at runs. I love running the ball, and I felt like it was just nothing but drop-back passes. I just want it to be more balanced, to be completely honest with you."
Swing tackle Cornelius Lucas said it was “different” under Bieniemy compared with the previous couple of years under former offensive coordinator Scott Turner, when he said Washington had a “completely balanced attack.” Tight end Logan Thomas said, “We had our ups and downs.”
“E.B. was the same person every day,” left tackle Charles Leno said. “You know what you were going to get out of him. That’s really all I’ve got to say: He was the same guy every day, so I have nothing to say about that.”
Quarterback Sam Howell, who has worked closely with Bieniemy since offseason workouts last spring, said it was a pleasure and fun, calling him a great person and a great coach. Similarly, right tackle Andrew Wylie — who spent five seasons with Bieniemy on the Chiefs — said he has a great deal of respect for the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach.
“I've got so much love for that man,” Wylie said. “He stayed to his guns this year. He didn’t change. E.B. stayed the same coach that I’ve known for the last five years. I commend him for that.”
Rivera let slip during training camp that some players had come to him expressing concern about Bieniemy's coaching style, then apologized and tried to clarify those comments. But it was clear Bieniemy did rub some players the wrong way, and the results on the field — including an average of fewer than 20 points a game for a team that went 4-13 — were not what anyone had hoped.
“We didn’t have the season we wanted, so I feel like he’ll come back, shake back, do what he needs to do to get right and he’ll be all right and we’ll be all right,” running back Antonio Gibson said. “That’s just part of the game.”
Bieniemy last week in his final news conference of the season was unwilling to contemplate what might be next for him, saying he could only live and coach in the moment.
“I’ve had a great deal of fun,” Bieniemy said. “It’s been a great learning experience, not only for them, but for me, as well.”
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