We recently reported that Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s name has surfaced as a potential early frontrunner for the Washington Redskins head coach position. But beyond Washington, will other owners around the league pursue Bieniemy for their vacant head coaching position? That remains to be seen.
According to what sources have told Pro Football Network’s Insider Tony Pauline, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is heaping praise on Bieniemy throughout league circles in the hopes of getting the former running back a head coaching job. We also know that Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (who worked with Bieniemy in Kansas City), may have growing influence within the organization, according to a report from JP Finlay at NBC Sports in Washington.
However, PFN Insider Benjamin Allbright is hearing that some owners are hesitant about bringing in Bieniemy because his head coach interviews last offseason didn’t particularly impress many. If you recall, he had interviewed with the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, and the Cincinnati Bengals. All of those teams hired someone else.
Why are Alex Smith and Andy Reid pushing for Bieniemy?
Smith, who has recently taken on more of a leadership role within the Redskins organization, holds Bieniemy in high regard. The two spent five years together in Kansas City before Smith went to Washington. During Smith’s time as the starting quarterback, Bieniemy was manning the rushing attack as the teams running backs coach. They were quite successful during their time together, having gone to the playoffs four times in five years.
There is a belief that after his gruesome leg injury, Smith grew closer to Redskins owner Dan Snyder. He is often seen at practices with the team and is helping mentor rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. There are also rumblings that Smith will eventually want to transition into a front-office role at some point. If Smith is as close to Snyder as rumored, it might play an integral part in Washington’s interest in Bieniemy.
Reid, the current head coach of Kansas City, has also had nothing but positive things to say about Bieniemy.
“I’d say hire him, right now,” Reid said, via Adam Teicher of ESPN. “That’s what I’d tell you. I don’t want to lose him, but I mean if you’re asking me is he ready to be a head coach, yeah, he’s ready. He was ready last year…He’s in the quarterback room every day, and I think if you’d talk to Patrick [Mahomes] he’d tell you how much influence he’s had on him.’’
Although Bieniemy doesn’t call the plays for the Chiefs, he does help to assemble the game plan and relay the information to Mahomes. Reid has said that Bieniemy has been an integral part of Mahomes’ progression and success over the past few seasons.
“He’s helped me a ton,” Mahomes said. “He’s a special coach.”
Does calling plays have an impact on becoming a head coach?
A lot is said about the fact that Bieniemy is not the one calling the plays for the Chiefs offense. However, is it more on the media and fan side when compared to what NFL decision makers think?
Consider some of the most recent NFL coaching hires. Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor had limited NFL play-calling experience (when he was interim offensive coordinator in Miami during part of the 2015 season) and Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury had no previous NFL experience, never mind play-calling. There have also been plenty of others in the history of the NFL who did not call plays before being handed the reigns to an organization.
So, despite the fact that Bieniemy is not calling plays, it shouldn’t hinder his chances of landing a head coaching job. If Bieniemy can prove that he can manage all facets of the organization while leading a team, then that will be the ultimate factor in getting hired.
Andy Reid’s Coaching Tree
One would think that it shouldn’t be too difficult for Bieniemy to convince NFL owners that he can do just that. Part of his argument can reference the coaching tree that Reid has assembled.
John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens and Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles were former assistant coaches of Reids – both of which have won Super Bowls. Former Carolina head coach and Reid assistant coach Ron Rivera led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015. Bieniemy’s predecessor, Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy, led his team to a 12-4 record and NFC North title in his first year.
Reid’s coaching tree is impressive and deserves the pedigree that it has garnered. Bieniemy could be the next success story from said coaching tree, especially if Smith and Reid have their way. However, he must do well in his interviews this offseason, something that he reportedly couldn’t do last offseason.
We will continue to monitor the various head coach openings and rumors from around the NFL as it becomes available. Be sure to follow Ben on Twitter: @AllbrightNFL along with Tony Pauline: @TonyPauline and Pro Football Network: @PFN365.