As we head towards the end of the 2020 NFL season, the head coach rumor mill is getting up to speed. One name getting plenty of attention is Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. He has been a name near the top of many lists in the last two head coach hiring cycles. Let’s take a look at Eric Bieniemy’s coaching history, as well as which teams may have him on their list of candidates.
Eric Bieniemy’s Colorado stint
Controversy surrounded Bieniemy’s playing and early coaching career
As a player, Eric Bieniemy spent four years at Colorado followed by nine years in the NFL. His best performances as a player came in college where he rushed for 3,940 yards and 41 touchdowns. However, Bieniemy’s college career was not without controversy.
There were a number of instances, including an altercation at a bar after being called a racial slur, several driving offenses that resulted in the suspension of his license as well as a failure to appear at court charge, and he faced potential jail time due to an apparent misunderstanding regarding leaving the scene of an accident.
The controversies followed Bieniemy into the NFL and his coaching career. Bieniemy received a ban from the Colorado campus for a year in 1993 after harassing a parking attendant. While the running backs coach for the Buffaloes, Bieniemy was arrested in April 2001 for a DUI. Additionally, he left the program while the school was under investigation following several rape allegations raised against Colorado players.
However, there have been no further publicly-known controversies since Eric Bieniemy departed from Colorado nearly 20 years ago. Additionally, another coach that was involved in that scandal, Vance Joseph, who was also the center of a sexual harassment case involving two female athletic trainers, has already been given an opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL.
Bieniemy’s record as offensive coordinator at Colorado is questionable
Perhaps of more pressing concern to any teams considering hiring Eric Bieniemy is his record as an offensive coordinator when he returned. In his two years as offensive coordinator under Jon Embree (2011-2012), the Buffaloes went 4-21, including 3-15 in the Pac-12. However, if we dig into the numbers behind the offense, then the picture becomes even more concerning.
In 2011, the Buffaloes ranked 109th in points scored (19.8), 92nd in total yards (346.3), and 78th in yards per play (5.3). One of the most concerning elements for the Buffaloes was their discipline. In 2011, they averaged 7.9 penalties per game (joint-second) and 66.6 yards per game (sixth).
In Bieniemy’s second season things got worse for the offense. The Buffaloes ranked 120th in total points (17.8), 119th in total yards (302.8), and 120th in yards per play (4.4). One positive for the Colorado offense was the reduction in penalties per game (6.1) and penalty yards per game (57.8). However, an extremely concerning note was the increase in turnovers per game from 1.5 to 2.8.
Bieniemy departed Colorado following the 2012 season. He joined as running backs coach by the Kansas City Chiefs ahead of the 2013 season. Following the departure of Matt Nagy, Bieniemy landed the offensive coordinator gig in 2018.
Bieniemy’s time as Chiefs offensive coordinator
Eric Bienemy has been the Chiefs offensive coordinator for the last three seasons. In his first two years in the job, the Chiefs had a 24-8 record and won the Super Bowl in his second season. At the time of writing, the Chiefs are 12-1, leading the AFC playoff race. Across those three seasons, the Chiefs have ranked in the top six in points scored and yards gained offensively.
However, as Pro Football Network Insider Benjamin Allbright discussed on the December 1st PFN Weekly show, Eric Bieniemy is “…a titleholder who relays the play calls in but doesn’t make the play calls very often.” The majority of the time in Kansas City, “Andy Reid’s doing the play-calling, like 99 percent of the time Andy Reid is doing the play-calling, he designed the offense, all of that stuff.”
This is a similar label that has started to be cast on other recent Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinators Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy. Both have had flashes of success as head coaches but also had their struggles. Nagy went 12-4 in his first season in charge of the Bears, and Pederson won the Super Bowl in 2017.
However, outside of those two seasons, Nagy and Pederson have gone a combined 43-44-1 in the remainder of their time as head coaches (up to Week 14 of the 2020 season). Those records should be warning signs for anyone looking to hire another coach from the Andy Reid coaching tree.
Which teams are rumored to be interested in Bieniemy as head coach?
Eric Bieniemy will likely be a name many teams are considering to fill their vacant head coaching role. In his December 2nd mailbag, Tony Pauline stated that “the smart money has Bieniemy landing in Houston or possibly Atlanta.”
There are two potential stumbling blocks for Bieniemy. The first could be if the Chiefs make a deep run in the playoffs. Additionally, poor interviews have been pointed at as a reason Bieniemy is not already a head coach. The combination of those two elements could push Eric Bieniemy further down head coach wish lists.
Ultimately, any team with a head coach vacancy this offseason will consider Eric Bieniemy. The Chiefs’ offensive coordinator has worked closely with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, making him a candidate that will be desirable to many teams.
Could teams look to package both Eric Bieniemy and John Dorsey?
Bringing in a head coach and general manager who are familiar with each other is a method that many teams consider when looking to fill both roles. That could be a path teams look to take with Bieniemy and Dorsey. Both potential candidates were at the Kansas City Chiefs between 2013 and 2016.
Benjamin Allbright recently reported that Dorsey is a name high on the Lions’ wishlist. However, the Lions are looking to hire a head coach first, and then finding a GM who can work with him. Another team that is believed to be making a push to land Dorsey and Bieniemy is the Atlanta Falcons.