Once the Atlanta Falcons suffered their fifth loss of the season to move to 0-5, the Dan Quinn/Thomas Dimitroff era in Atlanta came to an abrupt end. Now the coaching and general manager search for the Falcons begins anew. Because of their current roster makeup, this opening could be a coveted one, even with some cap challenges. Today we will examine a potential head coaching candidate and why such coach can be a true fit for the Falcons and their future.
About Eric Bieniemy
Before we hop into Bieniemy’s current position, let’s highlight his past a bit. Bieniemy was a highly sought after recruit as a running back out of California in 1987. After committing to the University of Colorado, Bieniemy became a star immediately. His highest accolade at the college level was rushing for 1,628 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior in 1990 and eventually finished third in the Heisman voting that season.
He was a second round pick of the San Diego Chargers in the 1991 NFL Draft and played for the Chargers, Bengals and Eagles for nine seasons. Since 2001, Bieniemy has held coaching positions such as running backs coach and offensive coordinator for Colorado (RB/OC), UCLA (RB), Minnesota Vikings (RB) and currently, the Kansas City Chiefs (RB/OC).
Andy Reid coaching tree
Bieniemy faces a ton of questions regarding if he is ready to be a head coach. Most if not all of the questions derive from Bieniemy’s time under current Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. Bieniemy was named offensive coordinator for the Chiefs in 2018 and during that time, the Chiefs were ranked first, sixth, and currently fourth in the NFL in total offense.
While Reid has been noted as the primary play caller during that time, it is worth noting that examining both Bieniemy and Reid on game days, Bieniemy has the exact play sheet as Reid and when Reid is calling plays, Bieniemy is right next to him making notes and evaluating. It also has been observed that Bieniemy has been calling plays on various occasions for the Chiefs the past two seasons, including the Super Bowl postseason run this past season.
Bieniemy also continually draws praises from players and peers, and his biggest booster is his boss.
“This guy is a phenomenal coach is what they’re looking at,” Reid said. “And I think (all Chiefs players) would all stand on the table for him. ... They’d all stand up and tell you what he’s all about. He’s a leader of men. And they all (know) he’s going to shoot you straight — honest, honest, honest. And then they also know and respect his mind. I give him, every weekend, I sit down, we put together this game plan sheet with 200-plus plays on it and he memorizes every play, every formation, just — boom — on recall like that. And every week, I go, ‘Listen, are you good with this?’ And he goes, ‘No problem. I’ve got it.’ But a lot of hard work goes into it. Plus, he’s a brilliant dude.”
The coaching tree of Andy Reid also plays in Bieniemy’s favor. Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was an offensive quality control and quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia under Reid from 2009-2012. Once Pederson earned his time as head coach in Philly, all Pederson did was win two NFC East titles and a Super Bowl since his 2016 hire. Former Vikings head coach Brad Childress also has roots under the tree of Reid. Childress was the OC for the Eagles between 2002-2005. As the head coach in Minnesota, Childress won the NFC North in 2008 and 2009, and made the 2009 NFC Championship game. Current Bears head coach Matt Nagy was an assistant of Reid from 2008-2012. He was also the Chiefs offensive coordinator in 2017, a unit that finished fifth overall and sixth in points. After called upon as the Bears head coach in 2018, Nagy guided the Bears to a 12-4 record as a rookie and currently sits at 4-1 and one of the top teams in the NFC.
Why is he a fit for the Falcons
Aside from X’s and O’s, Bieniemy has proven to be ready for a head coaching gig. He has had plenty of experience handling special, generational talent. Bieniemy was Adrian Peterson’s first NFL running backs coach. During that time, Peterson recorded four consecutive 1,200+ rushing seasons with 42 rushing touchdowns. Of course, we are witnessing firsthand with the amazing wizardry of Patrick Mahomes on a weekly basis, something Bieniemy deserves credit for.
When it comes to the Kansas City scheme possibly being brought over to Atlanta, here is where things get a bit interesting. The Chiefs scheme is predicated on executing with little play action and a considerable amount of deep drop backs from the quarterback. Mainly because of the luxury of having a quarterback like Mahomes that can launch it from anywhere with plenty of velocity and accuracy.
There is also a considerable amount of RPOs (run-pass options) incorporated in that scheme, which is definitely not a strong suit of quarterback Matt Ryan. But what the Chiefs offensive scheme does provide is in the creativity department. A scheme that executes primarily out of 3x1 receiver sets with a focus on shallow routes to get the ball into the hands of the receivers on the move or deep routes out of those sets thanks to having a plethora of speedsters (Hill, Hardman, Watkins) at their disposal. The Chiefs also love to incorporate pre-snap motions, which if you have observed the Falcons scheme enough under Dirk Koetter, that element is rarely seen but desperately desired. Bieniemy would need to tweak his scheme and hire good coordinators in Atlanta, but an improving offensive line would help him execute what he wants to do.
The Falcons have had a healthy dose of defensive-minded head coaches over the past decade. Being that the strength of the Falcons team is on the offensive side of the ball, it seems right to bring in a coach that can feed that strength. Bieniemy is next in line as one of the best offensive minds in the NFL that is ready to take his coaching prowess to the next level. If Bieniemy wants to come in and have an offense that has plenty of weapons and able to win right now with the right tweaks, Atlanta can answer that call for him.