The Washington Commanders have found their new offensive coordinator after an extensive search. Two-time Super Bowl-winning coordinator Eric Bieniemy will join the coaching staff as the Commanders' assistant head coach in addition to being the team's play caller.
Here are five things to know about the Commanders' newest coach.
1. He played a role in crafting one of the league's premier offenses.
Let's start with the obvious. The Kansas City Chiefs' offense has been the gold standard for the NFL, and Bieniemy played a vital role in making that machine run.
Since Bieniemy was promoted to the Chiefs' offensive coordinator in 2018, the Chiefs have averaged 30.1 points and 406.2 yards per game. During that five-year time span, they led the league in average yards per game three times and had four top five finishes. The unit has never ranked lower than fifth in average passing yards per game.
The Chiefs' offense was particularly adept at staying on the field under Bieniemy. Since 2018, they have converted 48.9% of their third down attempts. This was highlighted by a conversion rate of 52.2% in 2021, which is the fourth-best performance in the category since 2004.
Bieniemy and the Chiefs are coming off another standout season in which they lead the league in total yards (7,032) and yards per game (413.6), passing yards (297.8) and points (29.2). Now, the mind that helped put up those numbers is coming to the Commanders.
2. Multiple players have had banner years under his direction.
Anyone who has watched the sport the last five seasons knows what kind of production Patrick Mahomes has had with Bieniemy as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator. The 2022 MVP became the fastest quarterback in NFL history to reach 9,000 passing yards and 75 touchdowns, doing so in only 30 games, among several other accolades.
But Mahomes is not the only player to excel under Bieniemy's direction. Five of tight end Travis Kelce's seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons have come with Bieniemy as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator, including a career-high 1,416 yards, which set an NFL record for a tight end, and 11 touchdowns in 2020.
In the four seasons that Tyreek Hill worked with Bieniemy, the wideout earned four consecutive Pro Bowl selections and two First Team All-Pro honors. His 1,479 yards in 2018 ranks first in Chiefs history for a single-season performance, and he became the fastest wide receiver in Chiefs history to record 4,000 career receiving yards.
Bieniemy's history with getting the most out of players goes beyond his tenure with the Chiefs. During his time with the Minnesota Vikings, Adrian Peterson set a then-Vikings record with 1,760 yards in 2008 and totaled 5,782 rushing yards and 52 touchdowns in four seasons under Bieniemy.
At the college level, Bieniemy worked with Maurice Jones-Drew at UCLA, and the running back earned Freshman All-America honors in 2003, rushed for 1,007 yards in 2004 and was a consensus All-America selection as a kick returner in 2005.
So, to sum it all up, no matter where he goes or who he works with, Bieniemy allows his players to thrive.
3. He had an extensive career as a player.
Bieniemy has a reputation for being able to connect with players, and there is a reason for that: he had a long career as a player himself.
Bieniemy was a second-round draft pick (39th overall) of the San Diego Chargers in the 1991 NFL Draft. He enjoyed a nine-year pro career with three teams: San Diego (1991-94), Cincinnati (1995-98) and Philadelphia (1999), where he played for Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid. In 142 career NFL games, he rushed for 1,589 yards and 11 touchdowns while catching 146 passes for 1,223 yards.
Prior to that, Bieniemy played at Colorado, where he was unanimous All-American and the Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year in 1990. Bieniemy finished third in Heisman voting that season and is the school's all-time leading rusher.
Bieniemy carried the ball 288 times for 1,628 yards with 17 touchdowns, leading the Buffaloes to the championship in 1990.
4. His leadership style involves inspiration and motivation.
As the Commanders' new assistant head coach, leadership comes as part of Bieniemy's new job requirements. That should not be much of a problem for him, because he already has a clear vision for how to lead his new team.
Back in 2020, Bieniemy was invited to the annual Quarterback Coaching Summit, which featured 90 coaches in attendance. Bieniemy chose to spend his 25-minute session talking about leadership and building a winning culture. The Athletic laid out some of the key points from the presentation, but a lot of it revolved around two factors.
"My job is to make sure I inspire and motivate staff and players to execute the plan that we've given them," Bieniemy said. "Your day-to-day approach should be a natural extension of your personality and your philosophy."
And Bieniemy's approach involved trusting players to convey his message to their teammates. At Kansas City, he had leaders like Mahomes who were up to the task.
"Our players are the voice," Bieniemy said. "We have a special, unique individual in Pat Mahomes. Having the opportunity to work with Pat, watching his growth and development, you want to encourage (him). Pat encompasses everything. He's not afraid of putting himself out there. He's not afraid of being vulnerable and saying, 'Hey, I made a mistake.' You want those guys to flourish in the system, but you want to make sure that you've got the right people in the building."
5. He comes to an offense brimming with potential.
It would be unfair to make a full comparison between the Commanders and Chiefs. Players like Mahomes and Kelce are rare, and while no one would complain if Bieniemy were to turn the Commanders into a top offense in the NFL in one season, it would be a tremendous ask.
That does not mean the Commanders are incapable of making a noticeable turnaround.
For starters, the offense has a strong trio of receivers in McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson. In their first season together, they combined for 2,579 scrimmage yards and 17 touchdowns. Dotson, the Commanders' 2022 first-round pick, showed promise despite missing five games with a hamstring injury.
In the backfield, Robinson and Antonio Gibson have proven themselves as a competent tandem. With Robinson taking over as the primary downhill ball carrier between the tackles, Gibson was able to flaunt his quickness and background as a receiver on the perimeter.
And at quarterback, the Commanders have a young answer in Sam Howell who will "more than likely" enter the offseason workout program as the starter, according to Ron Rivera. Howell only has one start under his belt, but his teammates and coaches were impressed in what he put together in the win over the Dallas Cowboys. Assuming he has a strong offseason and training camp, he could earn the role for the 2023 season.
Under the right direction, all that potential could turn into a dynamic offense. Based on his reputation and resume, Bieniemy is the person who can turn that potential into something more.
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