ASHBURN, Va. — New Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy made it clear during his opening news conference that he’s not focused on using this position to land a head-coaching job.
Washington hired Bieniemy last week to rejuvenate an offense that has struggled in coach Ron Rivera’s first three seasons.
“Being a head coach right now is not in my thought process,” Bieniemy said Thursday. “What I’m focused on is being the best coach today; everything else will take care of itself. I live in the moment. Right now my feet are planted here.”
Bieniemy was part of two Super Bowl championships during his five seasons as the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator. During that time, he interviewed with 15 different teams for head-coaching positions and failed to land a job.
“It hasn’t happened. It’s not anything that’s going to impact me moving forward,” Bieniemy said. “All that stuff about being the head coach, we can talk about that next year sometime. I’m focused on the job at hand.”
His inability to land a head-coaching job has become a focal point of offseason discussions for several years. “Everybody’s entitled to their own stance and their own positioning,” Bieniemy said. “My job is to eliminate all the distractions. I can’t worry about the things I can’t control.
“I don’t get down. I don’t let any opportunity take me down. My job is to create the necessary energy.”
In Washington, he’ll have full control over the offense — something he did not have in Kansas City, where coach Andy Reid was the primary playcaller. Bieniemy, whose contract was up with the Chiefs after this past season, likely could have returned to Kansas City in the same role. But he opted to take the job with Washington, a team that has not finished better than 16th in passing yards or points since 2016.
The franchise also is up for sale and, with Rivera entering his fourth season owning a 22-27-1 record, there will be pressure to have a winning season.
When asked why he wanted to come to Washington, Bieniemy was ready with a quick retort. “Why not Washington?” Bieniemy said.
He then looked at the front row of the auditorium where notable Commanders players sat: receiver Terry McLaurin, running backs Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson, quarterback Sam Howell and tight end Logan Thomas.
“Look at all the talent,” Bieniemy said. “I’m excited about this opportunity. I have no doubt about what they’re building here. I have never backed down from a challenge.”
Washington hired Bieniemy after interviewing seven candidates to replace Scott Turner, who was fired shortly after the season. Rivera said it wasn’t until he had gone through a week or so of interviews that the possibility of hiring Bieniemy entered his mind. But he had to wait until the Chiefs’ season ended.
He interviewed Bieniemy four days after the Super Bowl victory and hired him the following day. Bieniemy said it helped that he has known Rivera since 1999, when he was a player with the Philadelphia Eagles and Rivera was an assistant coach. He also knows general manager Martin Mayhew and liked that president Jason Wright grew up in the same area in California. Bieniemy has other ties to the organization that helped sell him.
Rivera said he felt “very fortunate” to land Bieniemy. And, he said, he understood what Bieniemy has gone through with his head-coaching pursuit.
“I can empathize because I went through the same thing,” Rivera said. “I interviewed eight, nine times before I got my opportunity. I know it’s the same thing for him. Eventually he’s going to get that opportunity.” Rivera also liked Bieniemy’s energy and how he plans to use Washington’s playmakers — notably McLaurin and fellow wide receivers Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel.
“That’s the biggest thing we want in this offense is to be explosive, to be aggressive and to be complementary but also have an identity,” McLaurin said. “He brings the competitiveness. He brings the championship caliber. I’m excited to get to work with him.”
Howell echoed that sentiment.
“[The Chiefs have] been an explosive offense and arguably the best offense in the league since he’s been there,” Howell said. “They did a really good job in Kansas City of knowing how to use their guys so I’m excited for that.”
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes tweeted his support of Bieniemy on Thursday.
“There should be no questions on how great of a man/coach Coach Bienemy is,” he wrote. “His leadership has a direct impact on the player/person i am today! 10+ years learning under one of the greatest coaches of all time.. and i cannot wait for him to continue to prove doubters wrong!”
For Bieniemy, it was difficult to leave the Chiefs after 10 seasons. But, he said, it was time. By the time the plane landed in Kansas City after the Super Bowl win Bieniemy said he knew his time there was over.
“We’ve had a great deal of success. I was blessed and fortunate to have that opportunity and share that space with some amazing people,” Bieniemy said. “But one thing in this profession, you learn that comfort is the enemy of progress. So, when it’s all said and done with, I don’t like being comfortable. I’m about accepting challenges and moving forward. This presents a challenge to me.”