In the hours following the Chiefs’ announcement Tuesday that he would be promoted to offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy has been flooded — actually, the word he used was “bombarded” — with calls and texts of congratulations.
“I really haven’t had an opportunity to talk to everyone,” Bieniemy said with a laugh.
But make no mistake, for all the love the 48-year old has received following his promotion from running backs coach to leader of the Chiefs’ offense, no one is more excited about the move than Bieniemy, who has been dreaming of such an opportunity for nearly 18 years.
That much became clear Wednesday, when Bieniemy spoke to the media for the first time since his promotion. As he thanked the Hunt family, president Mark Donovan, general manager Brett Veach, and of course, coach Andy Reid, Bieniemy spoke with the trademark passion and sincerity that has helped him get the most from the Chiefs’ running backs since his arrival here in 2013.
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“Have I always dreamed about coordinating? Yes,” Bieniemy said. “I do know this: If you work hard enough, good things come to you.”
Bieniemy hopes to be an NFL head coach one day, and his latest promotion is a significant step toward that goal. You can expect him to attack the job with the same vigor he did daily in practice, when his booming voice — which he consistently used to cajole and prod his running backs — could be heard reverberating across the field.
“I just want to bring an enthusiasm to this situation,” Bieniemy said. “If anybody knows anything about me, I pride myself on having guys play with an attitude and a determined mind-set. If anything, I just hope some of that rubs off.”
Bieniemy has some large shoes to fill. Matt Nagy, the man he’s replacing, was hired to be the Chicago Bears’ head coach on Monday, and players — particularly the quarterbacks — loved his demeanor and creativity.
Although Bieniemy carved out a nine-year NFL playing career as a running back and coached the position in the pros, he is confident in his ability to relate to, and help teach, the Chiefs’ quarterbacks.
“As a running back coach, we kind of get pigeonholed in a corner,” Bieniemy said, “but we’re a part of the run game, we’re part of the pass game, we’re a part of the protections. So we have to be thoroughly immersed in having a complete understanding of what we want to accomplish in the run game and how we’re going to protect the quarterback.
“That’s basically helped me throughout this entire process of gaining a knowledge of our system and concepts and becoming more immersed in what we do, why we do it and how we’re going to get it done.”
Bieniemy said Nagy did a “great” job putting together the offensive game plan each week along with Reid. But the Chiefs’ head coach has always welcomed staff input, and Bieniemy was certainly a part of that.
“We touched every part of the game plan,” Bieniemy said, “so I had an impact on all the things we’re responsible for.”
When asked who will call the plays. Bieniemy laughed. Nagy earned more play-calling responsibility in December, even though Reid continued to run the weekly installation of plays and had a heavy influence in calls during the game.
“Today is day one,” Bieniemy said. “I’m excited about getting in here today with the new title and new responsibilities. I’m sure that me and Coach Reid will have that discussion down the line.”
Bieniemy has experience calling plays. He was the offensive coordinator at the University of Colorado, his alma mater, during 2011-12. The Buffaloes went 4-20 during that stretch and ranked 92nd in total offense in 2011 and 119th in 2012. Still, he called the experience a good one.
“Obviously, we didn’t have a great deal of success,” Bieniemy said. “It was a great opportunity, and one thing I’m never, ever gonna do is make an excuse on why we didn’t succeed. But I loved it, I had a great time, I enjoyed working with the players I worked with, but one of the things I learned was how to take input and utilizing your skill set to the best of your capability.”
He said he learned the value of having multiple voices help construct a game plan, similar to what he has experienced under Reid in Kansas City.
“There’s always a different way to skin a cat,” Bieniemy said. “I appreciate the input, everybody being involved and having a touch and a place in what we want to do offensively.”
It remains to be seen what the rest of the Chiefs’ offensive coaching staff will look like. While the fates of offensive line coach Andy Heck, receivers coach Greg Lewis and tight ends coach Tom Melvin have yet to be announced, the loss of Nagy and assistant head coach Brad Childress, who is expected to retire, leaves a void in the quarterbacks’ room.
Bieniemy said he is excited to work with the quarterbacks currently on the Chiefs’ roster, including 2017 team MVP Alex Smith and dynamic rookie Patrick Mahomes.
“One thing I’ll speak to is his professional work ethic,” Bieniemy said of Smith. “He has an unbelievable work ethic, and he’s done a great job of just laying the foundation for many players around the building to learn from. Just watching how enthusiastic and how involved he was in everything he did, it not only taught younger players, but also had an infectious (impact) on the coaches, as well. That’s one thing that I love about Alex.”
Bieniemy called Mahomes a “great” young prospect.
“He is a tremendously talented kid, and he’s done a great job of just being himself and just being professional,” Bieniemy said.
Bieniemy will miss coaching the team’s running backs. He has created a strong bond with the likes of Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, Kareem Hunt and Anthony Sherman over the last several years.
But promotions have their advantages.
“Will I miss being a part of just a select group of guys? Probably so,” Bieniemy said. “But I will say this. Now I get to touch everybody. So that’s going to be fun and interesting moving forward.”
Also interesting will be how the Chiefs’ offense fares with Bieniemy at the helm. When asked what he hopes defenses say after they face his offense, Bieniemy delivered another trademark chuckle.
“We played a hell of a team,” Bieniemy said.