Eric Bieniemy on Commanders’ radar for offensive coordinator: A pairing might make sense

As the Washington Commanders’ search for a new offensive coordinator drags into another week, an intriguing name has emerged for the position: Eric Bieniemy.

The Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator is on the Commanders’ radar, a source with knowledge of the situation said. The NFL Network reported Sunday that the Commanders have sought permission to speak with Bieniemy, adding he could be a “potential key candidate” for the opening.

Bieniemy has spent the last five seasons as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator — a top gig with quarterback Patrick Mahomes — but his contract is up at the end of the season and a new team would allow Bienemy to call plays, something he doesn’t consistently do in Kansas City under coach Andy Reid. Reid is the Chiefs’ primary play caller. 

Since 2019, Bieniemy, who is Black, has interviewed for at least 15 head coaching openings — only to be passed over each time. Bieniemy’s inability to land a top job has brought increased scrutiny to the NFL’s minority hiring practices. 

Last year, former Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL cited Bieniemy as a minority coach who “has the pedigree, track record and reputation to make him a sought-after” coach, but was rejected for “numerous white candidates who are clearly less qualified” to take over head coaching duties for other teams. 

The NFL currently has five minority head coaches, three of whom are Black. That number could increase before the season as there are still four coaching vacancies. San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is reportedly the frontrunner to land with the Houston Texans, which would make him the league’s fourth Black coach. 

The Carolina Panthers faced criticism last week for hiring former Colts coach Frank Reich, who is White, in place of retaining interim coach Steve Wilks. Wilks, one of three Black coaches to be part of Flores’ lawsuit, went 6-6 as the Panthers’ interim to help Carolina finish the season with a 7-10 record. Wilks’ attorneys wrote that they were “shocked and disturbed” that Wilks didn’t land the job.

“Steve it has always been an honor to work with U,” tweeted Commanders coach Ron Rivera, who worked with Wilks in Carolina from 2012 to 2017. “You have shown U have what it takes to be an NFL HC. I look forward to that day U are given the opportunity again! #NFL”

Bieniemy, meanwhile, has appeared to receive less interest from teams for head coaching jobs this year. The Indianapolis Colts are the lone known team to interview Bieniemy this cycle, though one report indicated the coordinator is still “very much in the running” for that job.

More clubs seem to be interested in luring Bieniemy to become their coordinator. The NFL Network reported that the New York Jets, Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens have also requested permission to speak with him.

The Jets have since filled their coordinator vacancy by hiring former Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett. The New England Patriots (Bill O’Brien) and Los Angeles Rams (Mike LaFleur) have also filled their respective openings.

With Bieniemy receiving other interest, it remains to be seen whether the 53-year-old would be interested in Washington. Analysts have speculated whether Washington’s job is truly attractive given that owner Dan Snyder is exploring a sale of the franchise and that Rivera figures to be entering a pivotal year of his tenure next season. The instability of the situation may not be appealing to a coach that has options. 

That said, the Commanders have a talented supporting cast with receivers Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel. Rivera has also emphasized the need to run the ball, and Washington has two quality backs in Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson. The Commanders are still unsettled at quarterback, though the team has told prospective candidates that Sam Howell will likely be their starter. 

If Bieniemy comes to Washington and helps the Commanders become an above-average offense, perhaps that would boost his chances of becoming a head coach in 2024.  

The timing of when the Commanders’ potential interview with Bieniemy has yet to be determined. A source said the team was waiting on the Chiefs’ outcome Sunday in the AFC Championship to determine further steps. 

Since firing offensive coordinator Scott Turner earlier this month, the Commanders have interviewed five candidates so far for the position: former Giants coach Pat Shurmur, Washington quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese, Falcons quarterback Charles London, Dolphins running backs coach Eric Studesville and Rams tight ends coach Thomas Brown. The team would also like to speak with 49ers running backs coach Anthony Lynn. 

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