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'The man's one of a kind': Bieniemy's former players praise his coaching style

Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, right, talks to players during warmups before an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, right, talks to players during warmups before an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

The emotions were justifiably flowing for the Kansas City Chiefs after their Super Bowl win over the Philadelphia Eagles. That much was clear as Patrick Mahomes and Eric Bieniemy embraced in the locker room. 

Mahomes has become arguably the league's best quarterback over the last five seasons, collecting Super Bowls and MVPs since he was taken by Kansas City with 10th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Bieniemy, who was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2018, was one of the voices that guided Mahomes through all that success. 

After claiming their second Super Bowl title together, Mahomes did not shy away from giving Bieniemy his flowers. 

"EB means the world to me," Mahomes told "The Ship" host Darren Smith. "The way he holds me accountable, the way he makes me be great every single day, this man's one of a kind."

Mahomes is not alone in having those feelings for Bieniemy, who was hired by the Washington Commanders to be their assistant head coach and new offensive coordinator on Saturday. He has coached some of the league's most talented players in his career, and many of them believe he was pivotal in their development. 

Mahomes' stats as the Chiefs' starting quarterback look more like what you might see on a game of Madden. He has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in each of the past five seasons, including a league-leading 5,250 yards in 2022, and he has led all quarterbacks in passing touchdowns twice (2018 and 2022). His QBR has only dipped below 70 once since 2018, and he averages 303 passing yards per game for his career. 

Obviously, Mahomes is a rare talent, and yes, it is well known that Andy Reid calls the plays for Kansas City. But Bieniemy's role in crafting the game plan and making adjustments on Sunday is just as important. Case in point: the nine-yard rush by Jerick McKinnon that ended with him sliding down at the Eagles' 1-yard line, allowing the Chiefs to run down the clock and seal the game. 

"I want to give the credit to Eric Bieniemy," Mahomes said, "because even though sometimes we get tired of them talking about those moments, they always seem to happen in the biggest games. And he makes sure we go through the details about them every single week."

Preaching the details is one aspect of Bieniemy's style; coaching players hard and holding them accountable is another. Players like Adrian Peterson, who played for Bieniemy with the Minnesota Vikings from 2007-10, can appreciate that, because while he is "intense," that approach can have benefits.

Peterson rushed for 5,782 yards and 52 touchdowns with Bieniemy as his position coach.

"He prides himself on details and execution," Peterson told The Athletic in 2019. "He's old-school, man. He played running back, back in the day. So, of course, he's one of those guys that is all for the run-first mentality, but he's definitely one of those people that wants to get the most out of his players."

Bieniemy's high standard for his players can be traced back to his days at UCLA, when he was coaching Maurice Jones-Drew for three seasons with the Bruins. Jones-Drew earned Freshman All-America honors in 2003, rushed for 1,007 yards in 2004 and was a consensus All-America selection as a kick returner in 2005.

Jones-Drew went on to have a successful NFL career with three Pro Bowls and a First Team All-Pro selection. He did not play for Bieniemy in the professional ranks, but he never forgot how much he developed during their time together.

"Now, his style of coaching isn't for everyone to like - it's not to be liked, it's to make sure that you're the best player that you can be," Jones-Drew said in 2021.

Once Bieniemy got hired by the Chiefs in 2013, he took that style with him. It did not take long for running back Jamaal Charkes, who had two 1,000-yard seasons with Bieniemy as his coach, to understand what Bieniemy expects from his players.

His conclusion after spending four seasons with Bieniemy: "every guy Eric Bieniemy touches, he raises their game -- whoever they are."

"Wherever he goes, he's going to bring out the best in all his players," Charles told CBS Sports in 2021. "He's going to push them to a level they didn't even know they had. He's a great coach that coaches the details."

Bieniemy has a new challenge as the Commanders' offensive coordinator. Washington has not finished higher than 20th in yards per game since 2017, and it has been near the bottom of the league in average points per contest in that time frame as well.

Whatever the Commanders' offense ends up being in 2023, it is reasonable to expect the unit to reach new heights.

"Make sure you have an Eric Bieniemy in your life," Mahomes said. "Because he'll make sure you're ready to go."

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