After two straight AFC Championship appearances, a Super Bowl victory, and the success of KC’s offensive powerhouse, it’s time Chiefs fans prepare for his inevitable exit.
With the constant whirlwind of rumors and predictions that fog up every NFL offseason, there seems to be a clear choice for what isn’t a rumor and who will be coaching somewhere new next season: Kansas City’s Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
Since Bieniemy has become the Chiefs OC, the Chiefs’ offense has become one of the most feared offenses in league history, racking up the third-highest PPG (35.3) and the third-most points ever scored (565) in a 16-game NFL season in just his first year at the position (although it was primarily Reid calling plays then, not Bieniemy just yet). The Chiefs also are currently hoisting the #1 offense in the country (according to Lineups), leading the league in total yards (5,131), and are second in points (370) behind Green Bay by only nine points.
With the NFL seemingly moving in the direction of dual-threat QBs, the obvious choice for a new head coach in this upcoming era would be Bieniemy considering his experience under Andy Reid while bringing Mahomes’ skills to the forefront of the NFL. And although Reid’s coaching tree has had some weaker branches as of late now is the best time for a team to hire Bieniemy, especially due to the new expansion of the Rooney Rule which will reward teams for developing minority coaches, meaning Bieniemy becoming a head coach somewhere would give the Chiefs a third-round compensatory pick for two consecutive years.
With the news that Jets Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams has been let go–after allowing the Chiefs’ arch-rivals from Las Vegas throw a 46-yard bomb to Ruggs III with 0:05 seconds left in the game–it appears that the Jets could soon be the 4th team to fire their head coach before the 2020 season ends, joining Houston, Detroit, and Atlanta. But there could easily be more teams searching for their next head coach by the time Bieniemy and KC finish their postseason “Run It Back” tour.
As far as hot seat talks around the NFL goes it’s hard to base anything on rumors, but it would be ridiculous to believe that the Jets (who could become the 3rd NFL team to go 0-16) remain with “QB-guru” Adam Gase, and it would be just as foolish to think the Jacksonville Jaguars keep HC Doug Marrone around for their clear and obvious rebuild approaching.
On top of the two worst teams in the league, statistically, there are rumors floating about Chargers HC Anthony Lynn losing his job on the dreaded ‘Black Monday’ after week 17, and for good reasons. For instance, since the 2018 Chargers 12-4 season they have lost 73% of their 29 games, which includes last week’s 45-0 debacle against a Patriots team that didn’t even have to throw for more than 126 combined passing yards to rout them in their own stadium.
Lynn has also been reported as saying that the Chargers playoff hunt “probably isn’t going to happen” before the shutout loss, which is not only absurd to hear a head coach say to their team–that could still potentially make the playoffs–but also could have been the demoralizing push the Chargers needed to tank the rest of the season away for a higher draft pick.
As far as rumors go there are also talks about the head coaching job in Denver possibly being available this offseason, and while head coach Vic Fangio has been reported safe (by Sportsnaut) it would still be viable to say that Fangio’s 11-18 start in Denver is not what GM John Elway was expecting when he hired him to the position two seasons ago. It doesn’t help that history shows Elway does not hesitate to fire coaches or let go of key talents early when things aren’t going well.
Other rumors revolve around former KC offensive coordinators Matt Nagy in Chicago and Doug Pederson in Philadelphia, both due to their recent struggles regarding quarterback selections, in-game adaptation, and poor drafting skills.
While Nagy and Chicago could easily drop Mitchell Trubisky and shoot for the moon in the 2021 draft, that option does not seem to be possible for Pederson who is locked into a 4-year, $128 million contract with their starting QB, who was just downgraded to second-string behind rookie Jalen Hurts entering week 13.
While it seems Nagy is in control of his own destiny in Chicago, it doesn’t look that way for Pederson, who at least has a Super Bowl victory under his belt that he can use as leverage going into this upcoming offseason.
And one final team that could reportedly be moving on from their young coach is Cincinnati who is 4-23-1 under head coach Zac Taylor, who has seemed to lose everything from the locker room to the coaching staff. With the Bengals’ locker room being called “toxic” and multiple players publicly vying for teams to get them out of Cincinnati (with Carlos Dunlap actually being successful) it’s not crazy to think that the Bengals could move on from Taylor and rebuild while their franchise quarterback heals for most, if not all, of next season.
So, with rumors intact and three teams already testing out interim head coaches (including former KC interim head coach Romeo Crennel), it’s safe to say that Bieniemy will have his pick of the litter this offseason, now the only question is…where should he go?
Here are my reasons why I believe Bieniemy could very easily choose any of the teams looking to secure a promising future in him:
Not only would Bieniemy have a star at QB in Deshaun Watson–already locked in with a 4-year deal signed earlier this season–but he also inherits a defense that is still relatively-well put together, especially when healthy. With J.J. Watt still leading a hefty defense in both sacks, tackles for losses, TDs, and forced fumbles (tied at 2–Whitney Mercilus) it’s hard to see the downside to Houston.
The one thing Bieniemy would want to secure is a more solid offensive line to protect his star QB, a WR to fill the role of Deandre Hopkins that can stay healthy and on the field (*cough* Will Fuller IV *cough*), and a secondary that can keep the ball in the hands of the QB longer for Watt to attack.
New York Jets
This could actually work out in Bieniemy’s favor, because not only would he have full control over the rebuild of one of the most historic franchises in NFL history, but he could fill the voids in the coaching staff with people he trusts while simultaneously filling many of the holes the team desperately needs with their nine draft picks (five of them coming in the first three rounds).
It also doesn’t hurt that the Jets are hurdling into the top spot of the 2021 draft, a spot where QB’s Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields are slated to sit atop, either of which could be the beginning of a dangerous offense that could (potentially) be a replica of the Chiefs offense today. It would take time but Bieniemy could find major success in the Meadowlands if he plays his cards right and hits on certain picks in the draft, mainly the #1 pick.
Going to a team that already has a rigid offensive mindset has got to be a factor for Bieniemy when choosing where he’ll sign. The Falcons, although down on their luck recently, have been to a Super Bowl within the past five years, have a former NFL MVP at QB, a resurgent Todd Gurley, and not to mention one of the most elite wide receivers in the game (Julio Jones) to build around if he chooses to.
Matt Ryan, although nearing the wrong side of 35, is still a quarterback with a future and is currently averaging a 63.5% completion percentage and 286 passing yards per game (according to Pro Football Reference). Bieniemy could even choose to draft a QB–with one of Atlanta’s ten total draft picks–to learn under Ryan during the remainder of his contract (expiring in 2023) or he could try and test Ryan’s value on the market, either way, he has an offense that is sound and only needs a few tweaks and additions to solidify a playoff contender.
Like Atlanta, a solid offensive mindset and strategy has been built around a highly-paid QB that is beginning to show signs of aging with the lack of running ability and dwindling arm strength. With the Lions, Bieniemy would have to start almost entirely from scratch, much like the Jets, both on offense and on defense which could be something that he is looking for in the job, much like previous coaches coming into Detroit.
Another possible benefit Bieniemy could look at is the young shining lights on Detroit’s roster like RB D’Andre Swift and CB Jeff Okudah. Sadly the Lions only have 5 picks in the upcoming draft, with one most likely coming in the top 10, but if Bieniemy were willing to test Stafford’s market value they could stack some more on top before draft day.
If their offense isn’t attractive to Bieniemy today it certainly won’t be during free agency, with FIVE Detroit receivers (Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, Marvin Hall, Marven Jones Jr., and recently-added Mohamed Sanu) all entering free agency this offseason. That means Bieniemy’s first task would be to pick the best WR he possibly could in the draft, or possibly free agency.
(Rumored) Chicago Bears
This would be somewhat tricky for Bieniemy to manage mainly considering just how ruthless Chicago fans can be and how little the Bears have to work with on offense overall. The ever-disappointed fans of ‘Da Bears!’ just saw a Chiefs OC take their hopes and dreams to a double-doink in the playoffs before drowning them in mediocrity both on offense and defense.
And although Nagy was stuck with Trubisky from the beginning of his tenure–something that could factor into whether Chicago lets go of Trubisky, Nagy, or both–his decision to bring in Nick Foles and his apparent inability to adapt during a game have him on many people’s potential chopping blocks.
As far as the draft goes, this will be the first time in the last three years that the Bears will own a first-round pick (thanks to the trade for Khalil Mack) which could mean that the Bears (currently sitting at the 13th pick) might be able to trade up for a top-10 QB or even let one fall to them, (perhaps NDSU QB Trey Lance?).
If not a QB then this team has plenty of other holes to fill in the draft, starting with their offensive line which has allowed the fifth-most sacks (25) in the league (according to Lineups), and with WR Allen Robinson likely leaving in free agency this offseason Bieniemy could easily bolster the Bears’ receiver core and running back depth.
(Rumored) Philadelphia Eagles
Much like Chicago this would be difficult due to the fact that their most recent head coach was also a Chiefs OC and Philadelphia fans are known as some of the most unforgiving and spiteful fan group (for example, booing Andy Reid out of town–which ultimately led to Patrick Mahomes and a Super Bowl victory, so thank you Philly fans).
Before bringing the Eagles to two division titles in four years and the only Super Bowl in Philadelphia’s history, Pederson drafted Carson Wentz with the #2 overall pick in 2016, a pick that looked like a home run before his MVP season was cut short, now the pick looks like a possible bust and the wrong end of a bad deal.
There is no solution to Philadelphia’s problem at the moment, but considering all possibilities Bieniemy would still have plenty to work with at QB if he chose Philly over the field; he could spend some of their seven draft picks on better WRs and a stronger offensive line, not to mention anyone that could help them force a turnover on defense.
And although Philly fans may not like another Chiefs coordinator taking over the team, they may appreciate the fact that he played his final season in Philadelphia in 1999 under Andy Reid so he knows the culture and has praised the city in the past.
(Rumored) Los Angeles Chargers
This pick might seem disheartening to Chiefs fans but let’s not forget that the historic KC coach Marty Schottenheimer made the same transition (with a single 8-8 season in Washington splitting his Chiefs tenure and Chargers tenure). It also wouldn’t be crazy to think he might eye the Chargers job if available, as he did play for the Chargers while they were in San Diego (’91-’94).
Anthony Lynn seems to have lost the locker room, he had an obvious starter in rookie Justin Herbert but continually stated he would choose Tyrod Taylor over him (for his own good reasons at the time) and now the fans of LA seem to want to move on to allow better growth for Herbert around a QB-centric coach (Bieniemy) and for their two rising talents at RB (i.e. former RB coach Eric Bieniemy).
Imagine what Bieniemy could do with a rocket of an arm in Herbert, a defense with Joey Bosa and Derwin James, intimate knowledge of the Chiefs defense, and a chance to show what he’s made of two weeks out of every season.
It’s scary, and honestly upsetting, to imagine the man in light blue and bright yellow but the slightest possibility is still up in the air, especially when many rumors say that Lynn is loved by the organization and the team.
Ultimately, if Lynn continues to lose the close games (Lynn is 4-22 in one-score games since 2019), or get blown out like they did last week, he could be out as soon as the regular season comes to a close.
(Rumored) Denver Broncos
Again, this is a haunting image that I know not one Chiefs fan would like to imagine, but for kicks and giggles let’s imagine just how much Bieniemy could accomplish as a coach of the Broncos.
First off, he’d have to get Elway on the same page when it comes to his ever-shuffling quarterback situation; Elway obviously has a type (tall, white, above-par arm talent, pocket passer) but Bieniemy could want to go in a different direction, especially if they choose to let go of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and try for someone shifty, with dual-threat ability in the draft.
With the QB situation taking a backseat to the defensive struggles Denver has shown this season Bieniemy might also want to look at what the defense really is with and without Von Miller (who has missed the 2020 season due to injury) because the once-great Broncos D has aged and become injured as of late.
Now, at the moment there’s no reason to believe that Elway is fully done with head coach Vic Fangio and his decision-making on the field but if he were to let go of Fangio after just two seasons it would most likely be due to the possibility of Bieniemy eyeing Denver as a landing spot.
Don’t forget, Bieniemy played his college ball (and was RB coach) at the University of Colorado Boulder which is just 30 minutes away from Denver.
(Rumored) Cincinnati Bengals
Bieniemy could have success in Cincinnati but with the history of the organization as a whole, it’s hard to see a bright future in a place so consistently gray and sub-par, especially when their organization was recently called a “mess and disaster” by one of their most beloved former QBs Carson Palmer.
If there is a future, it’s in 2020 #1 overall pick Joe Burrow who looked very promising (2,688 yds, 13 TDs, 5 INTs, 65.3 CMP%) before he tore his ACL and MCL in week 11; with Burrow possibly out for 9-12 months it would be a “long shot” (according to Dr. Timothy Kremchek) for Bieniemy to start next season with him starting under center.
Currently, the Bengals are slotted to receive the 3rd overall pick in the 2021 draft, with that pick Bieniemy would most likely want to acquire a lineman to protect their franchise QB from any more major injuries but he could also try to nab a defensive powerhouse. The Bengals have some skill where it counts, especially in their young wide receiver core with Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, John Ross, and a seasoned A.J. Green, which could easily pull an offensive-minded talent like Bieniemy to the helm.
No matter which teams hire Bieniemy they will be doing themselves, and the Chiefs, a major favor while also setting in motion yet another promising branch from the Reid coaching tree into the NFL’s head coaching circle. And although two former coaches in his position are on the hot seat in their respective new organizations, there seems to be nothing but brightness in Bieniemy’s future.