5 takeaways from Eric Bieniemy’s introductory press conference
The Washington Commanders introduced new assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to the media Thursday. There was a positive vibe in Ashburn surrounding Bieniemy’s hiring, with several coaches and players in attendance to welcome him to the Commanders.
After head coach Ron Rivera’s brief introduction, the floor belonged to Bieniemy, and he owned the room. Reporters asked Bieniemy everything from why he chose Washington, why he isn’t a head coach and what he wants from his players.
Many coaches and players have “won” press conferences in Ashburn over the years, but Thursday’s presser just felt different. Perhaps it was the pending sale of the franchise combined with the excitement surrounding Bieniemy’s arrival.
Ultimately, Bieniemy will be judged by the performance of Washington’s offense in 2023, and he’s OK with that.
Here are five observations/takeaways from Bieniemy’s opening presser.
The players are fired up
Washington Commanders offensive players listen as Eric Bieniemy. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
It’s the offseason, which usually means NFL players are spread all around the country or, in some cases, the world. Nothing is mandatory at this time of year. Yet, during Bieniemy’s press conference Thursday, multiple Washington players, including one defender [Kam Curl], sat in the front row to listen to the new offensive coordinator. Among them were quarterback Sam Howell, wide receivers Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, and running backs Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson Jr. Bieniemy took notice, mentioning how seeing the players there fired him up and left a positive impression on him.
After the presser, some players spoke with local reporters and they are excited. Specifically, Howell and McLaurin. This is a positive for the Commanders and head coach Ron Rivera. The players took time out of their offseason to return to the team facility and meet their new coach. It’s another sign of the culture Rivera has built. Now, they just need to win.
I asked how Terry McLaurin and QB Sam Howell feel about Commanders Eric Bieniemy @wusa9 #HTTC
More: https://t.co/cFfSFAFvdZ pic.twitter.com/x62iFbN7of
— Darren M. Haynes (@DarrenMHaynes) February 23, 2023
Bieniemy looking ahead, not behind
Eric Bieniemy poses with a Washington Commanders helmet. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Bieniemy had several opportunities to discuss why he hasn’t landed a head coaching job. Reporters tried multiple ways to get Bieniemy to discuss it, but the coach was smooth and said all the right things. Instead of Bieniemy publicly lamenting the NFL hiring process, he briefly once said perhaps there was something he needed to do better. But for the most part, Bieniemy was concerned with being where his feet were, and that was in Washington.
Sure, Bieniemy wants to be a head coach. But he made it clear he was with the Commanders now, and his focus was on his current gig. He finally told the media they could discuss a head coaching gig next year. If Bieniemy was disappointed, he did an excellent job of hiding it. Bieniemy legitimately appeared excited to be in Washington.
Eric Bieniemy: "Right now I'm the offensive coordinator of the Washington Commanders. Being a head coach, if that's to happen, that'll take care of itself."
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) February 23, 2023
Do whatever it takes to win
Bieniemy: as an offensive coordinator, we're gonna do whatever the hell it takes to win.
— Zach Selby (@ZachSelbyWC) February 23, 2023
Music to the ears of every Washington fan. General manager Martin Mayhew raised eyebrows at the season-ending press conference when he said the Commanders’ formula is to have a 2-to-1, run-to-pass ratio, which received plenty of ridicule. That’s an impossible scenario week-to-week. Rivera later clarified Mayhew meant at the end of games when Washington was trying to protect a lead, which makes sense.
What’s Bieniemy’s formula? He’s going to do “whatever the hell it takes” to win. That’s the right answer. Who cares if you run 40 times or pass 40 times? The end result you want is a win. Good coaching will discover what works, something Bieniemy knows from his time with the Chiefs.
Perfect hire for Rivera
Eric Bieniemy (L) poses with Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Rivera is heading into a critical offseason. Not only is the team for sale, which is never good for a sitting coach, but he has yet to have a winning season in three years. When Rivera fired Scott Turner, he needed to hit a home run. Considering the circumstances, hiring Bieniemy was as close to a grand slam as he was going to find this cycle.
No, this doesn’t mean the pairing will succeed. Yes, it is fair to wonder why Bieniemy didn’t have more teams wanting to hire him, but does it really matter? Bieniemy is well respected and wants to prove he can run a successful offense outside Andy Reid’s shadow.
When you look at the ceiling/floor of potential hires, let’s look at it this way. Pat Shurmur’s hiring would have raised the floor possibly, but Bieniemy’s hiring has the highest ceiling of all potential candidates.
Commanders Ron Rivera on Eric Bieniemy
“We found our guy”
More: https://t.co/cFfSFAFvdZ pic.twitter.com/vr5ij45bz6
— Darren M. Haynes (@DarrenMHaynes) February 23, 2023
No Snyder involvement?
Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder speaks during the introductory press conference for head coach Ron Rivera at Inova Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Anytime Washington has made a significant move that ended in a press conference over the years, owner Daniel Snyder has been front and center. With the team for sale, Snyder missed some home games late in the season, including Sonny Jurgensen’s jersey retirement, which surprised many. Snyder has long revered Jurgensen. He — or Tanya Snyder — wasn’t in attendance Thursday.
Rivera mentioned Snyder as being very supportive in his pursuit of Bieniemy. It was also said that Snyder’s plane went to get team president Jason Wright to help seal the deal with Bieniemy. Those worrying that Snyder may not sell the team can probably relax. His absence was noteworthy. Every sign points to Snyder selling the team, and Thursday’s events will not change that perception.