With the official announcement of Eric Bieniemy’s hiring as Washington’s assistant head coach/offensive coordinator hot off the press, there are already reports that he’s planning to bring in some of his own staff to fill out positions among the offensive coaching ranks.
According to a report, Eric Bieniemy has already compiled some/majority of his staff that he wants in D.C., which is why on Friday, things took longer to hash out. But, it seems as if he knows what type of offense he wants to run with the @Commanders led by star WR Terry McLaurin— Edward Ford (@EdwardFord_TV) February 18, 2023
In this piece, I’ll go through each position group, look at the incumbent coach on Washington’s roster, consider whether they can be upgraded, and then explore who Bieniemy might tap as a replacement.
Much of the background on the existing staff will be drawn from an article I wrote on the topic previously.
Incumbent: Ken Zampese
Zampese has been around the NFL in a variety of capacities since 1998, serving as an offensive assistant, quarterbacks’ coach, and offensive coordinator. At one point, there was strong speculation that he wasn’t far from being tapped for a head coaching role.
In multiple cases, Zampese was described as an offensive “mastermind,” first in his time with the Bengals - where he was instrumental in shaping the teams’ offense for over a decade - and then in his stint with the Browns, where the team’s former OL coach, Bob Wylie chalked up Baker Mayfield’s rookie success to Zampese:
“Baker (Mayfield) likes Freddie [Kitchens]. There’s a good relationship there even though (former Browns QB coach) Kenny Zampese did all the coaching there.
That said, Zampese’s background is in the Air Coryell-style offense, which would seem to be out of step with Bieniemy’s West Coast focus.
In the three years Zampese has been with the team, he was first unable to develop Dwayne Haskins (2020), the quarterback position continued to be a mess in 2021, and he was downright delusional about Carson Wentz (2022).
QBs coach Ken Zampese reviewing Carson Wentz's relief appearance in SF: "The ball came flying out of there a couple of times, we're like, 'Yes, that's going where it's supposed to, it's going on time.' So those things get you excited"— Pete Hailey (@PeteHaileyNBCS) December 30, 2022
Verdict: I’m ready to see him go.
Potential Replacement: Chad Henne
With the Chiefs existing QB coach, Matt Nagy, likely to be elevated into the offensive coordinator role in KC, the next logical option could be the just retired Chad Henne, who had been with the Chiefs as a back-up QB since 2018. Henne never had much success (18-36) during his 13 years in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be a skilled coach. At this point, he’s likely intimately familiar with the offensive style Bieniemy runs.
Running Backs Coach
Incumbent: Randy Jordan
Jordan has been Washington’s running backs coach since 2014, and was one of only a few coaches from the previous regime held over by Ron Rivera. Jordan hasn’t always had a lot of talent to work with: Alfred Morris, Rob Kelley, Matt Jones, Samaje Perine, and late stage Adrian Peterson had been his lead backs in DC prior to Rivera’s arrival. Despite that, in his time with Washington, he’s had three 1,000 yard backs (Morris, Peterson, and Antonio Gibson).
Last year, Jordan got 1,300 ground yards from the combination of Brian Robinson and Gibson, and the team’s running back group has been a relative strength with Jordan leading it. With Bieniemy a former RB coach himself, this group is strengthened just by his addition.
Verdict: Keep him around.
Wide Receivers Coach
Incumbent: Drew Terrell
Terrell was elevated to Washington’s WR coach in 2021, replacing Jim Hostler. Prior to that, he had been an offensive quality control coach with the Panthers (2018-2019) and an assistant WR coach for Washington in 2020. Just this week, the Cardinals requested the opportunity to interview Terrell as a potential OC.
Truth be told, I’ve been underwhelmed by the WR performance in Washington over the past two years. In 2022, in particular, with everyone basically healthy, a group with a tremendous amount of talent looked average at best.
With a WR room this fast, Washington fans should expect more.
Route-weighted 40-yard dash times for every offense's WR room in 2022. Decent way to look at how much speed each team put on the field from the wide receiver position pic.twitter.com/rndz3RBfFI— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) January 30, 2023
Verdict: Move on
Potential Replacement: Connor Embree
Embree has two seasons under his belt as an offensive quality control coach in Kansas City. During that time, he’s worked with the Chiefs’ wide receivers, including Tyreek Hill. Previously, Embree had worked with the defensive backs group and linebackers.
Tight Ends Coach
Incumbent: Juan Castillo
We knew it was going to be hard losing the irreplaceable Pete Hoener, but swapping him for an offensive line coach was a pretty dubious move from the start. Washington’s tight ends performed, in a word, terribly, in 2022. Was that all on Castillo? Probably not, but when your top tight end has 323 yards and 1 TD, that not anywhere close to enough.
Coming from coaching the best tight end in the league, Beiniemy will surely demand more of the position, and he does have a fair amount of potential in his tight end room. I doubt Castillo is the guy to help them realize that potential.
Verdict: Definitely move on
Potential Replacement: Porter Ellett
Ellett has been the offensive quality control coach for KC for the last 3 years. During that time, he’s worked closely with Bieniemy and Reid, and focused specifically on working with the tight end group. Ellett has a fascinating personal story - he lost his right arm as a child in an accident - and has the full faith of the league’s MVP.
“He understands not only the offensive side of the ball, but the defensive side of the ball. I know one day he’s gonna be a head coach in this league,” Mahomes said.
Offensive Line Coach
Incumbent: John Matsko
The maestro, who had worked his magic on the offensive line the prior two years in Washington, finally seemed to run out pixie dust in 2022. Carolina re-treads, Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell anchored - like an albatross - the interior of Washington’s porous offensive line and made life difficult on Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke.
That said, Matsko has been an NFL offensive line coach since 1992, serving with a variety of teams, including the Super Bowl winning Rams during their “greatest show on turf” period.
“In the six seasons that Matsko was with the Rams, the team advanced to the playoffs four times and had two Super Bowl appearances. He was also with the Panthers when they appeared in Super Bowl 50 after a 15-1 regular season finish in 2015.”
I’d be comfortable keeping Matsko around, given his past performance, but he’s 72 years old, and may be looking to enjoy a well-deserved retirement. If he decides to move on, I’d certainly wish him the best.
Verdict: Retain, but if he’s ready to retire, move on.
Potential Replacement: Corey Matthaei
Matthaei has been with the Chiefs for 10 years, and has served as their assistant offensive line coach for five of those. The story of KC’s offensive line re-build in 2021 is now almost legendary, and while most of that credit probably goes to Andy Heck - the Chiefs’ OL coach - Matthaei was a part of it, and has learned from one of the best. Matthaei originally came over from the Eagles with Andy Reid, and therefore is very likely steeped in his wise counsel.
Which of Washington’s position coaching groups would you most like to see upgraded?
This poll is closed
None of them.