Commanders new OC Eric Bieniemy makes immediate impact – ESPN – Washington Commanders Blog

John KimESPN staff writerJune 24, 2023, 6:00 a.m. ET7 minutes of reading

Kimberley A. Martin frustrated to see Eric Bieniemy as Commander’s OC

Kimberley A. Martin believes Eric Bieniemy is overqualified for the Commanders offensive coordinator position.

ASHBURN, Va. — The voice can be heard, loud and clear, from 30, 40, even 50 yards away. Probably more. And when offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy speaks, the Washington’s commanders are listening.

He has always been loud, always demanding.

After 10 years with the Kansas City Chiefs, he might be just a little taller, a little more demanding.

“I’m fired up and excited. It’s given me a whole new perspective,” Bieniemy said.

So when Jahan Dotson, the Commanders’ first-round pick in 2022, didn’t run a route fast enough during an individual drill, Bieniemy yelled, “This isn’t some half-ass drill; run it again!” So Dotson did as he was told: He ran it again at a faster speed.

When projected starting quarterback Sam Howell dropped a shotgun snap on the second play in full team work, Bieniemy ordered the first group off the field.

“Give me those two! We’ll make it right!” Bieniemy shouted.

That’s how it went all spring: Washington’s players got used to Bieniemy’s style. But they also know that the offense could use a good kick in the rear.

“He’s going to bring the intensity,” Washington receiver Terry McLaurin said. “We know what is expected of us every time we are on the pitch.”

Training camp is still a month away, but in the four-plus months since Washington hired Bieniemy as offensive coordinator/assistant head coach, commanders have already felt his impact. It goes far beyond the yelling that was easily heard or felt by anyone attending a training session. It shows in how they planned practices, how much he focuses on the details, it’s the energy he brings. Even the defenders were paying attention.

“You can’t help but notice it,” Washington defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said. “I love that way of training.”

Washington hired Bieniemy to build an offense that could help the Commanders clinch a playoff berth after firing Scott Turner.

They haven’t had an offensive ranking in the top 10 in points or yards since 2016, when they finished third in total yards. In the past five seasons, Washington’s best finish in both categories came last season, when it finished 20th in total yards; it ranks a cumulative 28th in points and 31st in yards.

In fact, Washington has only had three seasons since 2000 in which it finished top-10 in one of those categories — and only once (2012) in which it was top-10 in both. Not so coincidentally, the organization hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005.

And yes, it is also a chance for Bieniemy to maybe finally prove that he is worthy of being a head coach. For the past 10 years, he served as an assistant to Andy Reid in Kansas City; Bieniemy was the offensive coordinator for the last five seasons. He interviewed for a head coaching job 15 times; he got 15 rejections.

“A big part of it is because of Andy’s shadow,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “And I think that’s unfair.”

At his introductory press conference in February, Bieniemy said what he had to say about not being a head coach yet: “It hasn’t happened. It’s not something that’s going to affect me going forward. All that stuff about being a head coach, it can we’ll talk about next year sometime. I’m focused on the job at hand.”

So he doesn’t talk about it now. But, he said, the “job at hand” has energized him.

“When you’ve been in a place for 10 years, you tend to take certain things for granted,” Bieniemy said. “This has helped me go back and dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s.”

He brought ideas to Washington about how he wanted to maximize practice for the offense. He brought a new offence; Rivera had favored a system since becoming head coach in 2011 with Carolina. But Rivera also changed some of their training routines this spring to accommodate Bieniemy. He liked that Bieniemy always had a plan – or a reason why he wanted something done a certain way.

Because it was a new offense, with a young quarterback in Howell, Bieniemy would do an installation, then hold meetings, then practice. In the past, they practiced and then held meetings – as other coaches have done in previous years.

The Commanders also worked almost exclusively on their passing game this spring in a full team effort, with a rare running game. That provided more reps for a young quarterback in Howell, giving the coaches a better chance to see how he handled different situations.

“After you’ve been in the same system for 12 years, change is always a good thing,” Rivera said of welcoming Bieniemy’s new approach, “and it’s been really refreshing.”

However, Bieniemy’s adherence to detail overshadowed any changes in the practice regime. It didn’t matter if it was a starter like Dotson or someone who might not make the roster; if they didn’t run the play right, they would be chastised. Bieniemy came on receiver Kyric McGowan during a drill for the depth of a route. He made him drive it again. McGowan played 10 snaps on offense last season. Another time it’s a backup center in rookie minicamp.

If Eric Bieniemy doesn’t like something in practice, he’ll make the Commanders run it again.Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

“He’s just trying to pressure you,” Washington right guard Sam Cosmi said. “He’s been a part of Super Bowl teams, and you don’t get there without grinding and holding people accountable.”

It could be about route depths; it could also be about the speed of getting in and out of the huddle or someone jogging — rather than sprinting — out of the lane.

“Things you might not think are that big, but they are, and when the game is on the line, you want them to be perfect,” Washington running back Antonio Gibson said.

During one practice, Bieniemy was upset that Gibson caught a screen pass in front of the line during a group drill with no defense. They ran it again. He caught it behind the line. Later against the defense, they ran the same screen and Gibson broke off a long gain.

“What I always stress is that I want us to have a sense of urgency and a sense of purpose,” Bieniemy said. “Getting out of trouble is probably the most important thing, because you set the tone for the defense. I am always critical of that. Then I want us to do our jobs with greater attention to detail.”

Rivera said the players see the results from the yelling and don’t take it personally.

“They understand that he’s not just yelling at me for the sake of yelling at me and trying to make an example of me or show everybody that he’s stronger than me or smarter than me,” Rivera said. “It’s because that’s how he emphasizes things. It is his way of doing something, of saying that this is very important. We must be aware of that. We have to understand that this is how we have to do these things.”

But there is the other part of the demanding nature. Dotson experienced it, for example, when Bieniemy stopped him after a meeting to deliver another message.

“He said, ‘You have so much potential and I’m going to make sure I get it out of you,'” Dotson said. “That’s what you want in someone. That’s how my dad was at a very young age; he saw the potential in me and made sure I worked to get to where I want to be in life. You have to to cherish people like that in your life, so I’m super grateful to have him as a coordinator.”

Bieniemy also understands the growth process of a young quarterback. During one play in a 7-on-7 drill in minicamp, Howell was late on his secondary read. Although he completed the pass, Howell knew what he had done wrong.

After the play, he turned to Bieniemy and told him, “I was late.” Bieniemy did not chastise him. Instead, he replied: “It’s all right, you passed the reading. That’s the reading we want.”

But Bieniemy also called himself out when he messed up, once pointing out on the sidelines how he sent in the wrong play.

“He tries to set a very high standard,” Howell said. “That’s what we want. We’re totally concerned with what he’s trying to do.”

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