Over the last two decades, the Washington Commanders have seen one of the nations most respected and successful franchises turn into the laughingstock of the sports world. The talk around town has always been about when will management turn the ship around. Many believe that nothing will change until team owner, Dan Snyder, sells the team. Whether you believe that or not, the most recent hire for the Commanders has excitement running through the veins of the people in the DMV. This past week, the Washington Commanders hired Eric Bieniemy as their new Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator.
Coach Bieniemy has seen a lot of success in his football career. Bieniemy played college football for the University of Colorado Buffaloes as a running back. He was an amazing collegiate player, receiving multiple awards and breaking many records for the school. He is the all-time leading rusher in yards (3,940) and touchdowns (42) for the university. In 1990, he was named a unanimous All-American, was third in the Heisman Trophy voting and won a National Championship.
He was drafted 39th overall by the San Diego Chargers in the 1991 NFL Draft. Three years later, he appeared in Super Bowl XXIX where he caught a 33-yard pass, the longest play of the game for the Chargers, in a lopsided loss to the San Francisco 49ers. He played the remainder of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles before retiring in 1999.
After eight seasons in the NFL, Bieniemy chose to return to his alma mater as Running Backs Coach. He coached at the University of Colorado, then UCLA, before he was hired by the Minnesota Vikings in 2006 as their Running Back Coach. During his time there, he led a prolific rushing attack with a young Adrian Peterson. Under Bieniemy’s coaching, Peterson set the NFL record for rushing yards in a single game (296), was rookie of the year in 2007, led the league in rushing yards in 2008 and led the league in rushing touchdowns in 2009. After the 2010 season, Bieniemy returned to the University of Colorado as the Offensive Coordinator for two years. In 2012, he returned to the NFL as the Running Back Coach for the Kansas City Chiefs.
With the Chiefs, Bieniemy coached running back Jamaal Charles, a successful rusher who maintained an average of 5.4 yards per carry throughout his career, the highest in NFL history. In 2017, Bieniemy had Kareem Hunt as his running back, who went on to lead the NFL in rushing with 1,327 yards for the season. Bieniemy was promoted to Offensive Coordinator the following season.
In his first year as Offensive Coordinator with the Chiefs, franchise quarterback Patrick Mahomes became the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards in a single season, the other being Peyton Manning. During that year, the Chiefs offense scored the third most points in a single season in NFL history (565). The team reached the Conference Championship every year Bieniemy was at the helm. In just five years as Offensive Coordinator, he won two Super Bowls and coached Mahomes to two league MVP awards.
For Bieniemy’s next chapter, he recently signed a 2-year contract with the Washington Commanders to be their new Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator. He now has total control of the Commanders offense, which was not the case in Kansas City, having shared the role with Head Coach Andy Reid.
Throughout Bieniemy’s career, he has had many weapons to work with and there is no shortage of that in Washington. Good run games are one of Bieniemy’s trademarks and at running back there is rising star Brian Robinson Jr. and playmaker Antonio Gibson. After taking a gunshot to the leg in a highly publicized car-jacking, second-year man Robinson was just shy of 800 total rushing yards. Antonio Gibson has been highly productive out of the back field and as a receiver.
The most dangerous position on this offense is definitely the wideout position. “Scary” Terry McLaurin is arguably one of the best receivers in the NFL. He has been highly productive for the Commanders even though they have been without a top-tier, consistent quarterback running the offense. Alongside Terry is Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson and Dyami Brown, making them one of the most talented wide receiver groups in the league. Tight end might hold the lowest skill level on the offense with veteran Logan Thomas and third year man John Bates at the one at two tight end spots.
Sadly, the quarterback position has been a knife in the side for the franchise ever since Snyder took control of the team. There have been a few bright spots over the years, but the Commanders have not had good, consistent quarterback play since the 80’s under Hall of Fame Coach Joe Gibbs.
Outside the offense, there are other positions that need to be addressed in the coming months. The most important being resigning superstar defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne. Payne and the team still haven’t come to an agreement for his contract. The possibility of the team franchise tagging him is very high, but Payne wants to be paid what he has “earned.” Kicker Joey Slye’s contract also needs to be addressed. Washington fans are aware of the troubles the team has had the last 20 years with finding a good kicker and Slye has been consistent lately. The team says they plan to stick with rookie quarterback Sam Howell next season as their starter, which would indicate not paying for an expensive quarterback through free agency. This should allow them to spend more money addressing these key positions on the team.
Other distractions continue with the news surrounding Dan Snyder possibly selling the team, a failed new stadium deal and the highly documented legal and PR related stories that have kept the Commanders in the news for all the wrong reasons. While addressing what’s happening off the field, Eric Bieniemy has been a positive sign for the organization’s future. With his recent Super Bowl successes and other accomplishments over the years, Eric Bieniemy signing with the Commanders is creating a positive buzz for the Washington fan base. There is hope and an urgency to hear more good news in the coming months. The fans desperately want to see a return to the days when their team was one of the most celebrated franchises in sports.