Packers Head Coach Candidate: Eric Bieniemy
There are detail-oriented coaches, and then there’s Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
Bieniemy leads one of the most high-powered offenses in the league and has helped in the development of a star-in-the-making quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes said recently that Bieniemy “does not let me miss any detail of what the play is supposed to do, what the protection is supposed to be and that helps me a ton because when we get to the game everything is a little bit easier.”
Of all the hot air surrounding what Aaron Rodgers supposedly ‘needs’ from his next head coach, just about everyone can agree that Rodgers would benefit from a coach who makes the games a little bit easier.
The details on Eric Bieniemy
Most recent job: Offensive Coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs (2018-present)
Record as a head coach: 0-0
First job: Running Backs Coach at Colorado (2001-2002)
Packers connection: Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was part of Packers head coach Mike Holmgren’s staff from 1992-1998, and Bieniemy has coached under Reid since 2013.
The background on Eric Bieniemy
Bieniemy played running back for Colorado, and was a Consensus All-American in 1990. A year later, he was selected in the second round by the San Diego Chargers. In 120 NFL games with the Chargers, Bengals and Eagles, Bieniemy served largely as a backup and returner.
His final year in the league – 1999 with the Philadelphia Eagles – coincidentally was the first season Andy Reid coached the team. Bieniemy’s coaching career began back with his alma mater, and by 2006 he found himself back in the NFL as the running backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings.
In Bienemy’s second season with the Vikings, Minnesota drafted running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson ran for over 3,000 yards in his first two professional seasons, and Bienemy’s profile rose as a coach. He joined Jon Embree’s staff as offensive coordinator at his alma mater Colorado in 2010.
Reid hired Bienemy in 2013 as running backs coach for the Chiefs, and was promoted to offensive coordinator after Matt Nagy was hired by the Bears as head coach. Bienemy’s role is similar to that of Joe Philbin’s in Green Bay when McCarthy was still around – not as a play caller, but rather putting together the playbook and weekly game plans and running offensive meetings.
Eric Bieniemy’s biggest moment
Bieniemy doesn’t call the plays in Kansas City – that’s still Andy Reid’s responsibility – but he does call in the plays to quarterback Patrick Mahomes. While he’s been a solid, up-and-coming name in coaching thanks to his work with running backs, this 2018 season has seen his profile rise to head coach territory.
Perhaps no game speaks to Bieniemy’s prowess as an offensive coordinator better than this season’s Chiefs-Rams slugfest in Los Angeles on Monday Night Football. Mahomes and the Chiefs were dynamite, scoring 51 points and falling just three points shy of a win. Mahomes threw for 478 yards and six touchdowns in that game, too.
There hasn’t been a better game to showcase the future of NFL offenses than that 54-51 matchup, and Bieniemy was one of the men responsible for it.
In Eric Bieniemy’s own words
2018 gave Bieniemy a high-profile promotion – offensive coordinator for the Chiefs. Kansas City jettisoned their stable quarterback Alex Smith to Washington this past offseason, and Mahomes was no certain guarantee. How did Bieniemy view the transition?
“I’ve had some great mentors over the years, obviously Coach Reid being one of them,” Bieniemy said during training camp. “I can’t say enough about how he’s helped me make this transition. Working with Coach Reid, he always makes sure that we’re on top of everything. Seeing it from a different viewpoint – now, it’s not just about worrying about the running backs. I spend a lot of time with the offensive linemen, a vast majority of time with the quarterbacks, spending time with the receivers and tight ends. Now you get to watch it and put it all together.”
What are the chances Eric Bieniemy is the next Packers head coach?
Jon’s Rating: 2/5
Bieniemy’s bona fides are not in question. He’s followed pretty much the same career track that got Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy head coaching gigs after stints on Andy Reid’s staff. After another year of great offensive success in Kansas City, it stands to reason that another one of Reid’s lieutenants would get serious consideration for a top job elsewhere in the league.
But how many successful (or even above average) head coaches can one coaching tree yield? There’s got to be some concern that sooner or later, a coach plucked from Reid’s stable of offensive minds is going to prove to be a product of his environment rather than a true innovator.
Bieniemy, therefore, could be a victim of timing as much as anything. Sure, Matt Nagy only worked as Reid’s offensive coordinator for a year before the Bears hired him as head coach, just as Bieniemy has. But is that enough for the conservative Packers? I tend to think not.
Gary’s Rating: 2/5
If Bieniemy does wind up as the Packers’ head coach, it will draw comparisons to 1999 when Green Bay hired African-American Ray Rhodes to replace Mike Holmgren. Rhodes’ staff was the first time in NFL history a team fielded minorities at head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator.
Bieniemy is a bona fide candidate, and any talk of his interview simply being done to satisfy the “Rooney Rule” requirement is hogwash. He coached one of the game’s best running backs and has played a large part in the league’s best offense this season. If you want an offensive mind, Bieniemy is on the shortlist.
The factor that works against Bieniemy is timing. The Chiefs will certainly be playing well into January and perhaps February, and save a potential bye week during Wild Card weekend, he’d be unable to interview until their season is over. If the Packers do cast a wide net and hire a college coach, it’d be unlikely the team waits until the Chiefs’ season ends to interview Bieniemy.