SNIDER: Bieniemy offers hope and risk for Commanders


The Washington Commanders are a better team with the expected signing of offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. But, what kind of offensive team will they be?

The Kansas City Chiefs coordinator didn't call plays for the Super Bowl champions over the past five seasons. But, the Chiefs were a passing offense given one of the game's top players in quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

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Commanders coach Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew ended the season emphatically saying they wanted a run-first offense. Later, Rivera said Sam Howell will be given every chance to be QB1 over the offseason.

So, is Washington a run-heavy team behind Howell or will Bieniemy's hire blow that up? This is classic misdirection by a franchise that has gone nowhere over the past generation. They start one way, then reverse course.

Winning teams row in the same direction. Washington has been up the creek without a paddle so long it's no wonder the franchise has gone over the falls regularly. It may happen again given a coach and coordinator with conflicting goals.

Rivera's goal is to remain in Washington in 2024. Bieniemy's plan is to be a head coach elsewhere next season. Rivera knows Bieniemy's success would work for both men, but if things start badly with yet another poor early season by Rivera, you wonder who blames the other first. Bieniemy could quickly become "Eric The Enemy" on social media if the offense doesn't click quickly. Given a young passer and a new season, a fast start is asking a lot.

Washington doesn't need to invest in another passer right now, not with a new ownership looming. A rookie quarterback might sell tickets, but probably won't save Rivera's job and suddenly the next regime in 2024 is mismatched at QB1. It has happened a handful of times since the last Super Bowl title in 1991; a big reason for the team's persistent mediocrity.

Washington has several good receivers and running backs. The team needs a receiving tight end that might be a first-round pick and an interior line. Those should be the free agency and draft goals.

But, everything depends on Howell, who looked good in his only start last season but is still an unknown. Bieniemy will be judged on Washington's passer, which has long been a path to the gallows. Ask Scott Turner.

Coming to Washington is a bold move by Bieniemy, who could have sought a third ring with Mahomes. Maybe a solid season gets Bieniemy out of Chiefs coach Andy Reid's shadow, but more likely becomes another victim in Washington's graveyard of coaches. See Mike Shanahan, Steve Spurrier, Jim Zorn and Jay Gruden, among others.

Washington gets someone who was exposed to a great play caller in Reid. But, did the Commanders gain the next great play caller in Bieniemy?

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

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