The Washington Commanders offense may have had their worst practice day of the entire training camp on Saturday. They could hardly move the ball or enjoy a successful forward pass as the defense let them hear about it all practice long.
When first-year receiver Kyric McGowan dropped his second pass of the day, an exasperated Eric Bieniemy shouted to both no one and everyone that receivers have to catch the ball. When some extracurricular activity occurred after Benjamin St-Juste broke up a pass intended for tight end Cole Turner, Bieniemy demanded the team refocus and move on to the next play.
But as the second hour of practice wore on, Bieniemy seemed to wear out. When a false start backed up the second-team offense, the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator simply shook his head while looking at the ground. No more shouting across the field. The offense was thoroughly getting its butt beaten and everyone on the field knew it. What more did he have to say?
I’ve heard about and seen Bieniemy’s intensity for years dating back to when he took over as offensive coordinator with the Chiefs in 2018. It’s a hallmark of his coaching, and it.
“They were a little concerned,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera told media Tuesday. “I’ve said, ‘Just go talk to him. Understand what he’s trying to get across to you.’ I think as they go and talk and listen to him, it’s been enlightening for a lot of these guys. It’s a whole different approach. You’re getting a different kind of player from the players back in the past, especially in light of how things are coming out of college football.
“A lot of these young guys, they do struggle with certain things. You also have to look at where they’ve been. Guys coming from certain programs are used to it; guys coming from other programs, not as much.”
I can understand why this Rivera quote surprised some folks. In the past, he’s been accused of being too honest, which is something many people should hope is their worst character flaw. But I also know Rivera believes in Bieniemy. The coach was his top choice for offensive coordinator after the season, and the Commanders believed securing the two-time Super Bowl champion was a great coup for the organization.
Bieniemy has never shied from the fact that he’s intense. He’s known to drop a few four-letter words on the practice field.
“I’m always going to be up front and I’m always going to be honest” Bieniemy said after practice Tuesday. “Just like I stated when I first got here: We all got to get uncomfortable to get comfortable. There’s some new demands and expectations that I expect.”
This is Rivera’s 13th season as a head coach, and he hasn’t had an offense finish in the top 10 in yards since 2018 or points since 2015. A CEO-like head coach, Rivera had a very similar offensive system in place from 2017 through last season before nabbing Bieniemy, to whom he’s given a great deal of latitude.
A fresh paint job was needed in Washington, and that’s what the Commanders are getting. It is unusual based off how things have gone there recently, but it could be a change that’s necessary.
“My No. 1 job is to help take these guys to another level, and I can see it,” Bieniemy said. “Because when you think about where we started in the spring to where we are right now, we’re making a lot of strides. I’m proud of these guys. It’s been some, excuse my language, good s— to watch.”
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The Commandersfrom second-year quarterback Sam Howell this camp. They love his poise and calm. He’s going through his progressions quickly and . He’s improving his ball placement in an offense where the catch-and-run is important, and getting his tight ends healthy will only help him in the pocket.
Bieniemy’s intense coaching style was talked about in Kansas City but wasn’t viewed as closely as it is in Washington. Andy Reid and the Chiefs position media on top of a hill, behind fans, away from the practice-field sidelines. In Ashburn, Virginia (and many other camps around the league), media members can stand where the action is. So you’re going to hear about it more because it’s more visible.
By Rivera’s account, it sounds like players have learned more about Bieniemy’s methods and are starting to come to terms with it.
Bieniemy decided to part from the best quarterback in the league for an opportunity to show an NFL that has passed him over as a head coach more than a dozen times that he knows what he’s doing. Maybe when he becomes a head coach, he won’t feel the need to be as intense as he is as the offensive coordinator. Right now, his gambit may just have a few more cuss words along the way.
“We got to make sure that the man next to me becomes by far the most important person,” Bieniemy said Tuesday. “When that man becomes by far the most important person, on that particular moment, in that particular play, now I know we got a team. Now we got a f—in’, excuse me, now we got a chance. Excuse my language. Y’all see me getting fired up.”