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Eric Bieniemy Presser: Sam Howell has worked his tail off, and I want to see him finish on a high note

Eric Bieniemy speaks to the media after today’s practice

Eric Bieniemy spoke to the media after today’s practice, and this could be his last time doing that in his role as the Washington Commanders’ Offensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach. He said he lives in the moment, and he’s focused on today which means preparing for Sunday’s season finale against the Dallas Cowboys.

Sam Howell will be getting the start again this week, after getting benched, then unbenched after Jacoby Brissett, his replacement, injured his hamstring in practice last week. Bieniemy was asked a lot of questions about developing young QBs, and he said the best thing for them is just watch how a veteran QB comes in every day and operates an offense. Sam Howell did that during his rookie season, but the veterans he watched were Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke. This season he was named the starter, and had Jacoby Brissett there as his backup and mentor.

Eric Bieniemy

Opening Statement:

All right. Good afternoon. Hope all is well. Hopefully everybody had a safe New Year’s celebration. Coming off a tough loss, but there was some good things that showed. I thought our O Line did a pretty good job up front. I thought they pretty much did a good job against a pretty good defensive front. It was good to get B Rob back out there. I thought he did some nice things, on top of that Sam had another opportunity to step out there, thought he did some good things. Obviously, there’s some things that he can continue to work on and cleaning up, but overall, we just keep continue chopping wood and continue moving in the right direction. So, with that said, I’m all ears.

Where the offense is at compared to where he hoped it would be:

Well, you know what, it’s a continual progression. We’re steadily working to improve. I know one thing, we’ve done a better job of protecting the quarterback. When we’ve had an opportunity to run it we’ve done an efficient job of running it, I think we’ve got a pretty good average. But overall the growth is continuing and we just got to continue chopping wood and continue defining who we are.

This week, obviously, the guys have been doing a heck of a job. I mean, they’re into it. We just finished practice. They’re working their tails off. They’re excited about this opportunity that’s coming up. Obviously, it’s the Dallas Cowboys. It means something around here and to these guys. So, I think there’s still a lot to improve upon and continue to work on.

The future:

You know what you live in the moment. The only thing I can worry about and control is today. Right now, I’m here having this press conference with you guys, spending this time in this moment with you. We go back inside, obviously, we’ll have an opportunity to watch today’s practice. We’ll continue preparation for Red Zone. So that’s where my focus is. You can only live in this particular moment. You can’t worry about tomorrow. You can take care of tomorrow when tomorrow gets here.

What Washington needs to do to reach the level that he was at with the Kansas City Chiefs:

Well, I can only answer that possibly from just being an offensive coordinator. I mean, the other issues it’s not for me to address. I think that’s ownership and whoever they decide to bring in there as a new head man or whatever they decide to go in that direction. But overall, the only thing that you can control is your work ethic. And one thing that I think our guys have done a great job offensively, is just continuing showing the improvement in their work ethic.

Because we can’t control everything. You’re not going to be perfect at everything, but one thing you can control is the effort that you put into it. And that’s on the field, that’s in the classroom, it’s second effort in finishing everything, on top of that is taking the notes in the classroom and then asking the proper questions so you can get the right answer. But other than that, we just need to make sure that we learn how to become resilient when things go wrong. It’s not, oh well, here we go again with that. No, it’s time to basically stand tall, hold your head up high, and figure out how we going to handle this next situation and continue powering forward.

So if anything, and I’m just talking about an offensive football standpoint, that’s where we need to go. That’s the direction we need to head in.

How this experience has changed how he views his career and what his goals are:

I mean, you are always self-evaluating, but when it’s all said and done with the only thing that you can worry about is this moment. This is all that matters. Obviously, it hasn’t been the season that we would like it to be, but I’ve had a great deal of fun. It’s been a great opportunity working with the coaching staff and just the personalities and sharing all the different intimate moments that you have throughout the course of a season.

And then having this opportunity to work with some of these players. It’s been a great learning experience, not only for them, but for me as well. Just getting to know people and then understanding personalities, and then just making sure that you can make what you know fit with the dynamics of what you have in that room.

So, it’s been something that I’m looking forward to, and it’s been a great experience. And so I want to use everything that I’ve learned this year, the good, the bad, and the indifferent to move forward in a positive light.

Sam Howell:

Surprises looking back on this season:

Well, more than anything, I don’t know a coach out there that doesn’t want to win. So that’s the surprising part is that we haven’t won more games. But you learn to become resilient in those moments. Making sure you can keep the creativity up, on top of that keep your spirits up, but also making sure that you’re doing the right things and keeping it creative and fresh with the players. That way they remain enthused about what’s next.

So, it’s just like, I’m fired up. I mean, Terry has an opportunity to go and get a thousand yards receiving. I’m like, “Hey man, listen, we 54 yards away. You got to make it happen.” On top of that, I just want to see Sam finish on a positive note. This kid has worked his tail off this whole entire year, and I just want to see him finish on a high note. I want to see our offense and our team to finish collectively together as a unit that worked their tail off. And they can see the rewards.

Last week, it felt good watching the O Line play and watching them have the success that they had, but you don’t want to celebrate in defeat. Because when it’s all said and done, we didn’t accomplish the goal, but there were some little steps that we took moving in the right direction. So hopefully we can complete the cycle.

Has his view of the QB position changed?:

It hasn’t changed at all. That position is the most praised, it’s the most scrutinized, it’s probably the most powerful position in this industry. And so you just want to make sure that you got the right person in the building. But on top of that, you also have to understand that it takes time. Nobody’s going to come in here and set the world on fire their first year. It generally doesn’t happen like that. You have to go through some rough patches, whether that’s sitting on the bench and watching from a veteran or getting baptized by fire and playing.

So, there’s a lot that goes into it. But the thing that I do appreciate is just having this opportunity to watch Sam go through it. And then also having that opportunity to have a Jacoby Brissett in the building who’s a veteran proven player who’s not only a heck of a person, he’s an outstanding quarterback, but also too, he’s one of Sam’s biggest advocates.

And so when you have that chemistry and you have the dynamics of the people that we have in that room, not only is it a challenge, but it makes it fun and it keeps you on your toes because you have to remain creative. You got to make sure that you’re staying on top of film, staying on top of the new concepts so you’re keeping those guys enthused about learning and just advancing in this industry.

Developing young QBs:

I think every situation is different. So, I think you can only base it upon the circumstances that you’re dealing with. This situation happens to be a different one than other organizations. So, I can’t speak on everyone’s behalf. I can tell you from my previous experience, when we had Alex Smith and Pat, Pat had an opportunity to learn and more than anything, I think one of the biggest values that a young guy can do is see a veteran player come in every single day and watch how he works. I think more than anything, that’s probably the biggest life lesson of all of this.

On top of that, watching him work and then making sure that he’s doing all the groundwork necessary to help him to develop that skillset, that work ethic and that behavior so he can have the temperament moving forward to become the franchise quarterback that you would like to become.

Was the increased passing game the best way to develop Howell early on?:

I think going back, looking at it, yes, in order for a quarterback to play, you got to give him an opportunity. Now, obviously, you could look back at situations and say he did something different, but a lot of that is predicated on the score, the situation that presents itself. Yeah, there’s a number of things that you can do to change everything, but it worked out the way it did. I think what has happened throughout the course of the season, it’s helped Sam to grow.

Like I said, he’s had some highs, he’s had some lows, he’s had some challenging situations, but the thing that is not only testing him as a talent, is testing his character, and he’s finding out more about who he is as a person. The thing that I love about him is his behavior has not changed. If anything, going through this adversity has made him even more hungrier. It’s given him even more of a passion to want to perfect his skillset.

So, that’s the thing that that excites me about Sam and that’s what you want from a quarterback. I mean, obviously there’s always things you would love to do different, but you know what, Sam’s development happened the way it did, and I guarantee you he’s probably the happiest person in the building because he’s had an opportunity to sling it around the park and not every young quarterback can say that.

Channeling Howell’s aggressiveness to produce more big plays while minimizing mistakes:

Yeah, I believe so. I mean, you always want a quarterback to be aggressive, regardless. I don’t care which quarterback you’re coaching, because you want him to feel like he’s the best player on the field at all times. We’re giving him the keys for a reason, and we want him to help lead us to a championship.

So yeah, you want that guy to have that confident swagger about himself, but there’s also a process too. One of the biggest things you learn from just watching and observing young quarterbacks is getting the quarterback to understand all the different types of defensive coordinators that you’re seeing. I mean, these coordinators are doing a pretty good job of mixing up coverages. They’re doing a great job of presenting different looks.

And so, I think the next step more than anything is just having a complete understanding of what he’s seeing, pre-snap, post-snap, and just coverage recognition in general and that’s not a negative, that’s every quarterback goes through that.

Going from coaching teams to Super Bowls to coaching through a losing season:

It’s been a challenge. It has been. I know it’s been a challenge because I’ve probably gotten more phone calls and more text messages than I ever have in the past 10 years. You try not to internalize it. It’s tough because when you are a competitor, you always want to win regardless. I’m one of those people that I want to beat you in checkers, I want to beat you in Uno, whatever.

And so, it is hard, but I think because of my competitive fire that helps me, that keeps me going in this industry, it forces you to continue to grow, because now it forces you to really take an in-depth look at self. It forces you to reevaluate everything that you’re doing and how you’re doing. It forces you to make sure that you’re doing an even better job of over communicating with your staff and with your players, but also just what you’re doing. Basically, just taking a look at the overall process of everything. You guys have heard me say this sometimes without no bad luck, you wouldn’t have any good luck at all.

Obviously, this season has not been the very best but I will say this, there’s been a lot of life lessons that I’ve encountered that have helped me to grow and I know it’s helped our staff to grow as well. And these players, they are learning that just because you have a professional tag next to your name does not necessarily mean that you’re the best in the business. Now, if you want to earn that, we have to go out and learn to take that and that starts with our work ethic, something that I was discussing earlier.

Teaching the offense in a year:

It requires time. It’s all about establishing the foundation of what you do and how well you do it. Then you got to understand as well, it’s a part of the process. Nobody likes losing, everybody wants to win. Now we live in a day and age where patience is not quote unquote virtue anymore. Everybody wants the overnight success. But if you want to do it the right way, it takes time, and you have to have an opportunity to build it however you choose to build it.

I think that’s any particular coach, any general manager, anybody in ownership, anybody in any type of business outside of this, it takes time. But you just got to make sure that you are executing your plan and understanding that, hey, you know what, you’re going to have hiccups every now and then, what do you need to do to make that plan even more direct and get it back on track.

Has the Assistant Head Coach title helped build his career?:

Oh, yeah. I think having that title has helped. I mean, just Coach Ron giving me the opportunity to work out all the scheduling, overseeing that, overseeing training camp, all that stuff’s helped. It forces you to think outside the box and to make sure that you’re doing it in a way that is helping the team moving forward. Now, one thing you do learn, everybody’s not going to like what you like, and that’s okay, but that’s why you’re in charge because you’re doing what you feel is best for the entire organization moving forward. And that’s what I was discussing earlier about establishing the foundation. It’s time for us not to rely upon what we know, it’s time for us to make sure that we understand that comfort is the enemy of progress. Change has to be something that we all embrace.