Before he ever set foot in Ashburn, Washington’s new offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, was catching heat from at least one former player who had serious doubts about his ability to succeed in the role.
Former Chiefs’ running back, LeSean McCoy, didn’t pull any punches when the topic arose on the talk show “Speak” in February.
LeSean McCoy not holding back when describing his experience with Eric Bieniemy in Kansas City— MLFootball (@_MLFootball) February 21, 2023
Of particular note, was this statement by McCoy:
“What makes Andy Reid so great is not the play calls, which we see, I mean that’s one of it, but the other this is adapting to the players. With Bieniemy, my first practice, I couldn’t believe it, he’s dog cussing the players. And not just the regular players, Kelce, other players. So it’s like it’s hard for me. I’m rooting for him, because he’s a black coach, and I love to see black coaches win. Also he’s a running back coach, and RB coaches never get a chance to be OCs, so I want that to do well for him. But if I have to do my job and be honest, where is the true value at?”
In the third week of training camp, we’ve gotten a number of reports along the following lines, indicating that Bieniemy has been routinely outspoken and direct with the players under his command:
Eric Bieniemy has demanded a lot from his players this off-season. @Nell_BTP shared a moment he observed at one practice session between Bieniemy and a couple of players.— Trap or Dive Podcast (@TraporDive) July 11, 2023
Our Commanders QB position group breakdown goes live this morning at 8a ET. #HTTC https://t.co/oJA8mrItd8 pic.twitter.com/0DKmhvhBqm
Chippy practice once again. Cosmi body slammed a DL. Couple plays later McLaurin upset with BSJ how he reacted after a pass breakup vs Turner. Bieniemy pissed again. Yells at O to quit the “dumb shit”. 17 yells out “he can’t do that to his teammate!”— John Keim (@john_keim) August 4, 2023
Day 11: “WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!”— Matthew Paras (@Matthew_Paras) August 7, 2023
We’re two periods into practice and Eric Bieniemy wants to see more energy.
The Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala decided to pull on that string a bit during one of Ron Rivera’s recent press conferences. As he is often wont to do, he responded in a fashion that was probably overly forthcoming. The question and his response are below.
And Bieniemy’s style does need some context: He’s very loud, very intense, but he’s also the only one yelling out “great job!” and acknowledging guys when they get it right. And he’s the same way for everyone. Some like it. Some don’t. https://t.co/kwArZNAhWU— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) August 8, 2023
I find several elements of Rivera’s response unsettling, and I’ll take them roughly in order:
- “I had a number of guys come to me” - Ron has a reputation as a “players’ coach,” so it’s not a huge surprise that players seeking relief from a coordinator or position coach would appeal to him for some sympathy, but it certainly has the capacity to undermine the authority of his managers if he indulges it too routinely.
- “I had a number of guys come to me” - This is not just an individual player approaching Ron about Bieniemy’s intensity, it’s a “number of them.” That suggests to me at least three players raising the issue. Think about that, several players - on an offense that ranked 24th in the league in scoring last year - are ignoring the chain of command, and going straight to the head coach to ask for relief from the offensive coordinator, presumably, based on the rest of Ron’s reply, without having even spoke to Bieniemy first.
- “You’re getting a different kind of player from players back in the past” - Without waxing too geriatrically about it, Ron’s basically saying contemporary players are quite a bit softer than those players from previous generations. Though that apparently doesn’t apply uniformly.
- “I mean, guys coming from certain programs are used to it.” - I heard this and I automatically thought “Alabama.” Perhaps Ohio State. Maybe it extends to most Power 5 schools, hard to say, but Ron is indicating a clear division of toughness between guys from “certain programs” and these guys:
- “Guys coming from other programs aren’t as much.” - What are the “other programs?” Hard to say exactly.
- “Jack [Del Rio] has a tendency to try to figure out guys a little bit more, as opposed to, “Hey this is it. This is the way it’s going to be,” that type of stuff. Eric hasn’t had that experience yet.” - While all very much understandable, and likely true, offered at a press conference in the middle of training camp, it feels a bit like throwing Bieniemy under the bus, as well as undermining his authority by emphasizing his relative lack of experience.
It’s true, we never heard complaints like these during Scott Turner’s days in Washington, but we never saw much production out of those offenses when the regular season rolled around either.
Additionally, I’ll point out, Washington’s offense was quite a bit worse in terms of adjusted games lost to injury last year, compared to the defense (25th in the league, compared to 18th).
So far in camp, a number potential offensive starters, including Logan Thomas, Curtis Samuel, and Saahdiq Charles have missed several days of practice. For the most part, Rivera has chalked this up to being “overly cautious,” but what are the odds this is connected to the “intensity” of Bieniemy’s practices?
This is a huge season for both Rivera and Bieniemy, and their futures are highly intertwined. They’d better get on the same page, or the wheels could come off this enterprise fairly quickly, as players pit one against the other in pursuit of a path of least resistance.
Ron Rivera and Eric Bieniemy having a discussion during training camp practice number 2.— Scott Abraham (@Scott7news) July 27, 2023
What do you think they're talking about? pic.twitter.com/NmCoZaVhu6
Are you concerned that Eric Bieniemy may be going too tough on the offense during training camp?
This poll is closed
No, I think it’s just right.
No, I think he should be going harder on them.