Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy addressed the media after practice on Sept. 14. Here is a full transcript of the press conference.
"Good afternoon. Hope all is well. Hope that everybody's had a good week so far, feels good coming off a good team victory. I thought the crowd was amazing. It was good to be in that stadium and hear all the fans supporting our team. I'm excited about this up and coming week. Obviously, it's an old school, AFC West opponent. So, with that said, I'm all ears."
On QB Sam Howell's Week 1 performance:
"You know what, I thought Sam did basically what a first year starting quarterback probably would do. And so I thought there was moments where he looked great, I thought there was moments where he just looked okay, and I thought there was moments that he can use as growing pains. But on top of that, using it as a life lesson springing forward. So, the beauty of it is just like I say, and I keep saying this every single day that I'm here is every time something happens, it's probably the first time that it's happened to him. So, the good thing was that I thought Sam did was that he played through it. You know, he made a play with his feet to give us an opportunity, he put himself in the end zone. So those are the things that you build upon. And the thing about it, like I said, I thought we showed grit, we stuck together as a team, and you need those life lessons and you guys are going to hear me say this throughout the entire season, okay? It does not matter what the numbers are. The only thing that matters is that alphabet, did you find a way to get the W? And that's what I'm proud of, I'm proud of us as an organization and proud of us as a team."
On the challenge of Denver's defense for the new offense:
"Well, I think the challenge is the same each and every week, especially with a young quarterback, they're always going to be coordinators that are going to check and see if your quarterback has everything in order. So, it's our job as a coaching staff to make sure that we're getting him ready for all the stuff that possibly could take place. Now, the beauty of playing against this [Denver Broncos] Defensive Coordinator [Vance Joseph], I've known this Defensive Coordinator since he was a freshman in college. So, he's a personal good friend of mine and we've had an opportunity to work together for years. I mean, hell, we trained together in college and when we played in the league, but I know VJ and I'm not going to say I know his entire defensive scheme, but he has a heck of a scheme. The thing I know about VJ, because VJ played in the secondary, he's always going to give a quarterback, especially a young quarterback, an unscounted look to where he can cause confusion. So our job, is to make sure each and every week that we're preparing our guys for all those unscounted looks, always expect the unexpected, apply your rules and go play."
On if he expects Denver Broncos Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph to take it easy on him [jokingly]:
"Well, you would think so, but I know we've [Kansas City] had the best of him for a few years now, so I know he's licking his chaps."
On if he prepares Howell about specifically playing on the road in Denver:
"Well, I'm pretty sure he played in some volatile stadiums when he played at North Carolina. Yes, Mile High is a very prestigious stadium, it's a loud stadium, the energy and the fan base, they get behind that team. But our objective is not to worry about that. Our objective is to make sure that we're getting our guys ready and on top of that, we have to eliminate that as a distraction. So, there are things that we can prepare them for, there are things that we can practice, but at the end of the day, we still got a game to play and so all of that does not matter, [the] only thing that matters is that kickoff is at 2:05 or 2:25, whenever it is. Hell, we'll line up in the parking lot at Mile High, we'll line up in the parking lot here, at the end of the day, our guys just want to go out there and play."
On WR Terry McLaurin's four targets in Week 1:
"Well I would say this, I would say the Commanders came away with a victory and Terry is about as happy as anybody. So, you got to understand, in order to build a great team, you got to learn to appreciate winning. Wins are hard to come by, the numbers will take care of themselves. The thing that I appreciate is the leadership that he provided during that process because when things wasn't going good, you got to be able to lean on your leaders. You got to be able to lean on them to provide these guys some expertise in making sure that we're staying together. Those are the moments that I love throughout the course of the game. You never really want to live through that experience, but you want to see those guys rise to the challenge. I can tell you right now, the last thing Terry's worried about is the number of targets. Okay, he's 1-0, he got an opportunity to play at home with a fan base that came out to support him and his team."
On the running game Week 1 and hopeful improvements going into Week 2:
"You know what, I saw five guys up front, including some tight ends. I saw them guys come off the ball, I saw them play hard. It wasn't always perfect, but they showed grit and they strained. [RB Brian Robinson Jr.] B-Rob got in there and did a heck of a job, the young buck got in there, [RB] Chris [Rodriguez Jr.] and he ran hard and that was good to see because at times you have to run the ball when everybody knows that you're going to run it. And then, when you get in situations like that in the rut that we kind of got into, we wanted to make sure that we can chew up clock. But on top of that, you know what, let's just go out here and find a way to move the chains by making sure that we display all the hard work that we've shown and put in getting to this point. So, it was fun watching them, and I'll say this, okay, everything wasn't perfect, but the thing that I enjoyed, I enjoy watching them play together. I enjoyed watching them communicate with each other on the sideline, talking about all the nuances that they can do, looking forward to the next drive. So that's what makes this fun and that's the challenge of being in this profession is watching these guys grow, but watching them come together and making things happen."
On TE Logan Thomas' Week 1 performance:
"Like I said, you could talk about everybody. Some guys played good in certain moments and certain guys didn't play as good in certain moments, but when it's all said and done with, we won. He caught the ball well, he dropped some. Obviously, he would love to not have any drops, but it didn't phase him. When we needed him to be at his best, he was at his best, just like every other player, okay? When we needed Sam to be at his best, Sam was at his best and he made plays for us. That's what this is about. Guys are going to struggle and guys are going to have bad moments, but that's how we've trained. That's why we practice the way we practice, because we know and understand everything is not going to be perfect, but at the end of the day, the only thing that you have to do is be the best team for over 60 minutes."
On if Thomas' dropped catches contributed to his calf injury in training camp:
"Nah, you're talking about a vet here. I don't think it had anything to do with that. I think more than anything and maybe this is just my personal opinion, you had a high energy atmosphere. Everybody's so excited to play. Sometimes when you're so excited, you want to try to overdo things rather than relax and rely upon the poise and fundamentals that have gotten you to this point. I thought a lot of us were probably trying too hard at certain times rather than just relaxing and playing. When we relaxed and played, we were pretty good. Now let's get those guys some credit too, they did a great job on defense, they gave us some different looks. But when we had to make plays, we made plays and we found a way to finish, and I'll say this, we collectively found a way to be creative, and we dragged our ass across the finish line when it was all said and done."
On the mentality the offense needs coming into a game like this:
"Well, I'll say this, first and foremost, they've always had a great defense. Those guys have been playing their tails off. You know, obviously the organization has been a historic one for as long as I can remember. Hell, when I was a kid and watching [Former Denver Broncos QB] John Elway play to when I joined the A FC West as a player and playing against some of those guys. But it's a historic organization, and yes, they have had their struggles. Coach [Sean] Payton is a hell of a coach, and I know he's going to do a great job getting those guys going in the right direction. Our job is to make sure we can hold them off at least one more week. But, you know, at the end of the day, it does not matter what success we had in Kansas City. This is our team, this is our organization, it's our job to make sure that our guys are ready and prepared to play and to find a way to be the best team for over 60 minutes. And that's all that matters."
On his approach to coaching the running backs on fumbling:
"Here's the thing, there's always repercussions, but they shouldn't have to be reminded because they know nobody ever goes into a game wanting to fumble. And like I told [RB Antonio Gibson], I said, listen, things happen. It's okay all right. You're still very much a part of who we are. At the end of the day, we know we got to protect it. We got to basically keep it high and tight in the open field. We got to have two hands on and in traffic and on the way down, we got to have it covered with two arms. And like, I always remind, not just AG, but everyone, you are not the prize, okay? When you're playing offensive football that ball is by far the most important element on that field that everybody wants. We just got to do a better job of protecting it. And as a team, we didn't do that offensively, and that falls right back on myself and our entire culture staff. So, we're making sure that we're addressing those issues, but not to a point to where everybody's playing uptight now. We just want them to be aware of it because of what we put on tape. And when you put something like that on tape, guess what? They going to try and expose that as a weakness. So, it's our job to make sure that that doesn't happen."
On if he will go to the University of Colorado Boulder game or watch in Denver:
"I will be watching, I'll be watching from my hotel, and it'll be a lot of fun. I got a bunch of family and friends that'll be in Colorado. They're going to support the buffs and then they're going to support the Commanders as well. So, it'll be fun, you know. And I will say this, I'm happy for the things that have taken place down there in Boulder and it's always good when you can beat the University of Knowledge. Nobody got that one, huh? But that's all right."
On how he felt about the first week of play calling:
"You know what, it was fun. It was fun. And obviously I've been doing this for a number of years and I don't think anybody ever thought I've called plays, but I have called plays. So, it was good. It was great having that opportunity and obviously we got a great coaching staff. Our guys do a heck of a job. Our guy's grind, they work at it, they're invested, but on top of that, they know how important it is of making sure that we're getting our guys in the right places. But on top of that, making sure that we're giving our guys the best opportunity to go out there and be as successful as we can."
On shifting to a run heavy approach in the game:
"Yes, I did. But during that time, I just felt that we needed to run the ball and just getting that energy and feeding off the guys and being in that atmosphere, I felt our guys can run it. And you know, obviously, being around [Kansas City Chiefs Head] Coach [Andy] Reed, he's kind of spoiled me. And I told you guys, I become a sellout when it comes to the pass game, you know, former running back. But, I actually put my hard hat on and said, you know what? Let's let these guys go win it. Let's let these guys set the tone and I thought they did a great job, and I'll say this, it wasn't always pretty, but it was effective and we found a way to win. That's by far the most important. We understand that we got things to work on, we're going to get better. But the thing I want to make sure of is that we're doing what is right by our team."
On playing against former teammate Joseph:
"I don't think I've talked to VJ in over two weeks because he was in Arizona, so right now I have no idea who the hell we're playing sometimes because I've watched Arizona film, I've watched Denver tape, I watched Denver tape, we watched Philly tape at one point in time, because again, now we got Arizona and Denver. So I'm trying to figure out who the hell we're playing. But, I talked to VJ, it had to be two weeks ago. And I mean, me and VJ grew up together that's my guy. I mean, that's my friend, that's one of my best friends. And we have a mutual respect for each other, and we know that we'll say hello to each other. We'll probably even see each other the night before the game just to say hello to each other. But other than that, when we're on that field, we're, we're going against each other. So we normally won't talk until when we get up on the field or if we decide to go to dinner whenever that is Saturday."
On how much you can take away from a coordinators previous team and apply it to what he's doing now:
"You know what, you can always take away something because there's always new tricks and trades that you pick up along the way. There are lessons to be learned. And obviously VJ has been doing this for a very long time. He was obviously the head coach once upon a time in Denver. We played him those two years. So there's some things that I've seen him do when he was in Denver that kind of relate to what he did in Arizona, but also there was some creative things that he did in Arizona that he didn't do in Denver. And so I think you just got to piece together and figure out exactly what's real and what's not. But when it's all said and done with, you don't want to chase any ghosts, we just want to make sure that our guys are relying upon their fundamentals and making sure they're utilizing their rules and doing a great job of communicating that way. Now we can go out and play and not worry about the opponent."
On if Joseph's time in Denver made him a better coordinator:
"You know what, now I may be a little biased because I've thought the world of VJ since he was a freshman when he played for us. He went to a high school that put out a number of players outta New Orleans, Louisiana. He went to Shaw High School, and hell, I think they won state when he was there. And so, he's always had that character. He's always had that leadership quality about him. He played quarterback. He was a backup that whole entire time. But he was one of the smartest players on our team as a freshman. And obviously it, you know, it led to him playing a few years in the NFL. But on top of that, when I was thinking about getting the coaching, he was already involved in coaching and he kind of inspired me. VJ is a well-versed individual who's accomplished a lot. And the thing that I love about him, first and foremost, he has not changed. Second of all, he continues to grow in this industry. And, and third of all, he has a way about himself that keeps himself around because when jobs are coming available, he's always one name that's always discussed."