Eric Bieniemy’s tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs is nearing a close. After five years of success and two Super Bowl rings, the league’s best offensive coordinator isn’t any closer to getting the head coaching job he covets. Now Bieniemy is on the verge of leaving KC to take on the same role with the Washington Commanders.
On the surface this is one of the most bizarre career changes you could imagine. Bieniemy leaves the Super Bowl champions to join a hapless offense that ranked 21st in the NFL in passing and without a quarterback plan outside of developing Sam Howell. To compound issues it’s moving on from the safest, most stable job in football to join Ron Rivera, whose future could be on rocky ground, with Dan Snyder potentially selling his football team in the process.
So why would Bieniemy make a move like this?
No. 1: He’s been told he needs to “prove himself” more
The head coaching hiring process has been patently unfair to Bieniemy. Nobody in the NFL has a better resume, but continually he’s been passed over for lesser-qualified candidates — even those coming from similar offensive backgrounds.
One possible notion why is that Kansas City has been a fairly easy place to coach since 2018. The team had the best quarterback in the NFL, an offensive mastermind at head coach, and essentially all the pieces needed for success.
Washington has none of those things. If he’s able to revitalize the Commanders offense, even just by lifting them enough to get to the playoffs, it would stamp out any doubt that Bieniemy was simply second fiddle to Andy Reid and cement himself as worthy of a head coaching gig.
No. 2: It’s a chance for him to run the show
One of the routine charges against Bieniemy is based off a spurious idea that he’s been riding Reid’s coattails in Kansas City. Reid himself has rejected this idea, and even advocated for Bieniemy getting a shot to coach — but it’s fallen on deaf ears.
That said, Reid is still a big part of the offensive playcalling in Kansas City, regardless of who draws up the plays themselves. In Washington the entire offense would be on him, with Rivera being very hands off when it comes to offense and putting trust in his coordinators.
Washington’s success, or failure, would be Bieniemy’s and his alone. If you’re confident in your ability to work with the roster then all the credit is waiting for you on the other side.
Perhaps part of what kept Bieniemy in Kansas City was the possibility Reid would retire and he would be the coach in waiting, but with Andy saying he wants to keep coaching it shuts that door.
Another element to this is Bieniemy’s coaching background, which prior to Kansas City centered on the ground game. He adjusted his offensive principles to take on a pass-first team, but this would give him a chance to return to running the ball, which was his bread-and-butter offensive style before joining Reid.
No. 3: Washington is a new challenge
It’s not fun winning in Madden over and over again on rookie difficulty. That’s essentially what you’ve got in KC. This past season was the biggest challenge the team had as they moved away from relying on Tyreek Hill and revamping the offense with JuJu Smith-Schuster as their top receiver aside from Travis Kelce, and the result was more astouding offensive success.
At some point the process of just winning because of Mahomes and the Chiefs’ incredible offensive talent has to get old. Flipping over to the NFC means he won’t directly be getting in Reid’s way and hurt the Chiefs, while also taking on a considerable challenge.
No. 4: Rivera is a great coach to work under
As a coordinator you’d be hard pressed to find a better head coach to work under than Ron Rivera. Routinely known as a coach who goes to bat for his assistants, there’s no risk Rivera would try and throw Bieniemy under the bus if things go wrong like other coaches have a tendency to do.
Rivera is also resolute in giving his coordinator’s praise for their success, and is generally regarded as one of the nicest coaches in the league. It’s a great work environment to be in. In addition, Rivera has a history of getting his coordinators into head coaching positions because of the autonomy he lets them have. Sean McDermott, Rob Chudzinski and Steve Wilks all got jobs after working with Rivera.
No. 5: It’s a chance to develop his own quarterback
Patrick Mahomes had already began his ascent when Bieniemy joined the Chiefs, and since that point it’s just been about supporting the best quarterback in the NFL. Things are very different with the Commanders.
Trying to coach up Sam Howell, a quarterback who is extremely unproven but shown flashes, would be an incredible addition to Bieniemy’s resume — as well as a chance to give Washington something the team hasn’t had since Kirk Cousins: A potential franchise QB.
Any success at the position would be Bieniemy’s alone, and make him a king in Washington.