In response to a report stating Arthur Blank is leaning towards a couple of candidates, we must further investigate the peculiar situation surrounding one of the rumored individuals — Eric Bieniemy. Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com said in his recent mailbag that Blank is focusing on Former Chiefs & Browns GM John Dorsey for the General Manager position and Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy for Head Coach.
Have you heard any NFL rumors around who the Falcons might be interested in as their next head coach?
“Right now, the belief is that owner Arthur Blank is going to make a big push for the combination of Eric Bieniemy and John Dorsey to accept the roles of head coach and general manager.”
In the past two years, Eric Bieniemy has been interviewed by seven NFL teams for vacant head coaching positions. In 2019, Bieniemy interviewed for the head coaching positions with the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This year, he interviewed with the Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, and New York Giants. Obviously, none of those worked out for Bieniemy. He even turned down the chance to interview for the vacant head coaching position at his alma mater, Colorado, earlier this year — a job that was his if he wanted it.
Chiefs’ OC Eric Bieniemy withdrew his name from any consideration for the Colorado HC job, as @MikeKlis also reported. Too good of a situation in KC to leave now, especially when he will be a prime NFL HC candidate again this season.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 21, 2020
It is clear he is waiting for his chance with an NFL team, so why has Bieniemy not been hired yet? I can tell you SportsTalkATL has no objections to making him the next head coach of the Falcons. After the loss to Seattle in Week 1, I wrote an overreaction Tuesday piece on 2021 head coach and general manager candidates. In which, Bieniemy is the first name you read about under the head coaching candidates. Then after the embarrassing Week 2 loss to the Cowgirls, Jake wrote in more depth about his top 10 head coaching candidates. Where again, Bieniemy’s name was listed first and who Jake has been advocating for since the 1-6 start last year. But the obsession does not stop there, Chase wrote about Bieniemy’s elevator speech — he gave before the Broncos game — for why he should be a head coach.
Preach it, EB! pic.twitter.com/iLarI08tk4
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 22, 2020
Then just a day later, Jake continued the push for Bieniemy after doing a profile on the Kansas City offensive coordinator. Jake did a great job highlighting the successes and upside of hiring someone like Bieniemy. But for the purposes of this article, we will play devil’s advocate and explore the possibilities as to why Bieniemy has not been hired yet.
The ‘Andy Reid’ Effect
Andy Reid has long been acknowledged for his superior understanding of how to attack and confuse NFL defenses. There could be a common misconception among team owners that Bieniemy’s success with the Chiefs‘ offense is primarily tied to his head coach’s aforementioned ability. Though Bieniemy is the offensive coordinator, Reid calls the plays — as he always has (Bieniemy, Nagy, and Pederson have all called plays before under Reid but not the entirety of a season). Bieniemy does contribute heavily to the installation of weekly gameplans. He does his own tape work and then meets with Reid, where he proposes plays and concepts he likes.
“We all check our egos at the door — if you have a good idea, we’re rolling with it,” Reid said. “That’s helped with our success here. Whether it was Doug or Matt or any of the other guys that have been here, they have all had input and have been able to put their name on a play. E.B. has done that, just like the other guys have done it.”
So, there must be doubts among the teams who have interviewed Bieiniemy that he will be able to transition the offensive system in Kansas City to a new team. Whether that is due to the supreme personnel of the Chiefs or Andy Reid’s expertise, there is something evident that is steering teams away that the public does not see.
Andy Reid Coaching Tree’s Lack of Success
Many underlings of Reid’s past teams from Philadelphia and now Kansas City have earned head coaching jobs. John Harbaugh, Doug Pederson, Ron Rivera, Sean McDermott, Brad Childress, Matt Nagy, Leslie Frazier, Todd Bowles, Pat Shurmur, and Steve Spagnuolo all worked under Reid at some point in time and eventually, all became head coaches. Now, the notion that Reid’s coaching tree has yielded unsuccessful head coaches is misleading.
Ron Rivera went 15-1 and made it to a Super Bowl, while John Harbaugh and Doug Pederson both won Super Bowls. Sean McDermott’s stock is rising as he has the Bills set to win the AFC East for the first time since 1995. So there is no shortage of success stories from Reid’s coaching tree, but there is a deficit of successful offensive-minded coaches.
Harbaugh’s background is in special teams; Rivera’s, McDermott’s, Frazier’s, Bowles’, and Spagnuolo’s backgrounds are defensive. So, regardless of the success or lack thereof, those individuals were not hired for the same reasons Bieniemy would be hired for. Whereas Pederson, Childress, Shurmur, and Nagy were hired due to the impression they gave of being offensive prodigies. Those are the conditions that most closely align with the ones surrounding Bieniemy.
Brad Childress led the Vikings to three playoff appearances and an overall record of 39-35 over four and half seasons. His offenses (chronologically) ranked 26th, 15th, 12th, 2nd, and 29th (fired after ten games) in points per game. The Minnesota offense scored 29.4 points per game during the ’09 season, but it can mostly be attributed to the addition of Brett Favre. Favre was only brought in after Childress, who was the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2001, failed to develop the late Tarvaris Jackson.
Pat Shurmur was head coach of the Browns for two years accumulating a 9–23 record throughout the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The two main reasons for the hire were Shurmur’s ability to call the plays on offense and his past success of developing young quarterbacks such as Donovan McNabb and Sam Bradford. His offenses ranked (chronologically) 29th and 24th in points per game, while Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden showed insignificant individual improvement. He was fired after two seasons of averaging under 20 points per game. Years later, he then replaced Ben McAdoo in New York after he was fired after just one season where the Giants’ offense averaged 23.1 (16th) points per game.
Before his hire, Matt Nagy was regarded as the best head-coaching candidate Andy Reid ever had. Nagy’s first season in 2018 had Bear fans proclaiming the next ten NFC North titles would reside in Chicago. During that season for the first time since 2010, a season ended by the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, the Bears won their division. The offense averaged 26.3 (9th) points per game, and Mitchell Trubisky looked to be an ascending talent. That magical run ended, however, after an underwhelming offensive performance and the infamous ‘double-doink’ missed field goal against the Eagles. Since that season, Trubisky has regressed and looks like he is on his way out of the NFL, the offense has been one of the league’s worst, and Nagy even surrendered play-calling duties to Bill Lazor in an attempt to find a spark. In the past two seasons, the Bears have ranked (chronologically) 29th and 28th in points per game. Nagy’s two most desirable attributes — ability to develop quarterbacks and call his own plays — are now in question.
Doug Pederson won Super Bowl 52 in his second year with the Eagles. Many would say, that is exactly what success implies. But I would point to the other seasons as points of reference to the coach Pederson truly is. Outside of the 2017 season, where the offense averaged 28.6 (2nd) points per game, the offensive output has been suboptimal. The Eagles ranked (chronologically) 16th, 2nd, 18th, 12th, and 26th in points per game since 2016. So what changed from 2017 to 2018? Frank Reich. Reich was the reason for much of the success Carson Wentz had, and once he left, the offense has taken a nosedive, leaving Wentz to blame. Again, one of Andy Reids’ disciples hired for their understanding of offenses and/or their ability to develop quarterbacks has been disappointing in those precise areas.
Eric Bieniemy’s Interviews
There is no question whether or not EB has the prowess to lead an NFL team. There is a never-ending stream of support from former and current players and coaches that he has the gumption for the job.
“I’d say hire him, like right now,” Andy Reid said in 2019, via Chiefs Wire. “That’s what I’d tell you. I don’t want to lose him, but if you’re asking me if he’s ready to be a head coach? Yeah, he’s ready. He was ready last year. Nobody is in more control than what he is within this game. He is a leader of men. He knows football, but he knows the offense like the back of his hand. He is in the quarterback room every day. I think if you talked to Patrick, I think Patrick would tell you how much of an influence he has had on him.”
“I think the details and the way he is able to control the room to get the best out of every single player is a big thing,” Mahomes said, also via Chiefs Wire. “[Bieniemy] holds you to a high standard and he holds you to the standard that you need to be perfect with every single rep you get in practice. I think those details and that standard he holds everybody to elevates everyone’s game.”
"If EB is not a head coach here soon something is wrong.”
– Brian Flores on #chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) December 9, 2020
So there must be some misunderstanding in what Bieniemy is trying to convey during these interviewers. Whether it is his vision that does not align with the owner’s, or he lacks the capacity to express his vision, something is holding him back from taking the next step in his coaching career. He is an extremely articulate individual, so I sincerely doubt the latter is true. It must be the fact that his concept of how he wants to run his team is rubbing owners the wrong way. The only other explanation would be Bieniemy’s disinterest in the job for whatever reason. All in all, the arguments presented are weak and there really is no reason as to why EB is still a coordinator.
Photo: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire