SNIDER: Bieniemy 'not afraid of challenge'


Eric Bieniemy has become the lightning rod of the Washington Commanders.

The former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator takes over the Washington Commanders offense as assistant head coach. However, a big hire for the Commanders seems to have divided fans.

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Proponents say Bieniemy is an upgrade over ousted coordinator Scott Turner, whose inconsistent play-calling wasn't helped by a steady stream of quarterbacks. Critics say Bieniemy didn't actually call Chiefs' plays and benefited from two-time NFL Most Valuable Player quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Backers say Bieniemy is a butt-kicker who gets the most out of players. Detractors claim he's a bully who picked on reserves.

Some want Bieniemy to replace Ron Rivera as head coach. Others say he's another bust.

So, there's a bit of a divide between Commanders fans, which is nothing unusual. Just like politics, it seems Commanders fans are often divided, though the majority of social media is often haters. Wait, that sounds like politics, too.

Washington needed someone willing to come for possibly one year given pending new ownership might want its own coaches. That usually attracts only desperate and dreamers as candidates.

Bieniemy wasn't desperate, but knew the path to a head coaching job didn't come through Kansas City. After 17 interviews, he needed to get away from head coach Andy Reid's shadow and prove he could run the offense himself.

Bieniemy bet on himself and left a team that won two Super Bowl championships in four years. He could have stayed several more years while enjoying success. Yet, it probably wouldn't have led to taking over for Reid one day or a top job elsewhere. So, Bieniemy takes over a new offense hoping to raise it to playoff level.

"I have never ever backed down from a challenge," said Bieniemy in his introductory press conference on Thursday. "I'm embracing this challenge. I'm fired up. . . At the end of the day, Eric Bieniemy is a ball coach."

Washington offered the chance to prove himself plus a longer and more lucrative contract. If Bieniemy can win with a passer off one game's experience and a rocky line, he'll see offers in 2024.

And, it's not like the Commanders don't have some offensive firepower with receivers Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson and running back Brian Robinson. If it can add a pass-catching tight end, guard and center, this team might rock and roll. That is, if quarterback Sam Howell is the real thing.

"Why not Washington?" Bieniemy said.

Bieniemy is not starting from scratch. Washington gives him a chance. And, Bieniemy provides an offseason distraction for the Commanders rather than Rivera being on the clock if not winning this fall.

As for Bieniemy, he's not worried about what opportunities may come next year. Like his new fellow coaches, Bieniemy is only worried about now.

"Being a head coach right now is not in my thought process," he said. "I'm focusing on being the best coach I can be today. I live in the moment."

The future is always now in Washington.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.

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