He didn’t convince Christopher Johnson and general manager Mike Maccagnan in 2019 that he was the right man to coach the Jets, but perhaps Eric Bieniemy will have better luck if he gets called back to take over as head coach in 2021.
If he even takes the call.
Kansas City's offensive coordinator will be a hot candidate – maybe the hottest, in fact – in the next hiring cycle. And with the Jets almost certain to go in a different direction after Adam Gase’s failed tenure, Bieniemy is certain to be high on their list. Then again, the Jets did choose Gase over Andy Reid’s trusted assistant after the 2018 season, so perhaps the 51-year-old Bieniemy will look elsewhere for his first shot as a head coach.
Wherever he does wind up, Bieniemy will have about as good a reference as there is in Reid.
"He’s a great leader of men, and I love the guy," said Reid, who is getting ready for his defending Super Bowl champions to face the 0-7 Jets on Sunday in Kansas City. "I don’t want to lose him. I know it’s inevitable, but he is a phenomenal football coach, [not only] knowing the Xs and Os, but his ability to reach players is pretty special."
The only knock against Bieniemy is that he doesn’t have the final say in Kansas City’s offense, which has been created by Reid, one of the brightest offensive minds in NFL history. But there was a time when another team took a shot on the untested Reid, the former Packers quarterbacks coach, and that worked out just fine for the Eagles, who reached the Super Bowl and went to five NFC Championship Games during his illustrious tenure in Philadelphia. And it was another Reid assistant, Doug Pederson, who authored the Eagles’ Super Bowl championship win over the Patriots after the 2017 season.
Clearly, it’s Bieniemy’s time. The only thing that’s to be determined is where he ends up.
But no matter which team hires him, Reid believes Bieniemy is more than prepared for whatever challenge awaits.
"You never have to worry about EB," he said, using the initials everyone in the organization uses to reference Bieniemy. "He’s as solid as a rock. You don’t worry about him on the field, off the field, you don’t worry about what he knows or doesn’t know. He’s a great family man. I love the guy."
Reid then joked, "I might be his agent."
He’s not. But Reid is Bieniemy’s biggest supporter. And he’s not just blowing smoke. He’s convinced Bieniemy can and will succeed when he gets a chance to run his own show.
"He’s disciplined, but he knows when to relax," Reid said. "Very intelligent, knows how to balance that. He’s a person that can bring people together. That’s a special quality to have."
Reid goes back to Bieniemy when he was an Eagles running back for his final NFL season in 1999. Reid then hired Bieniemy as KC's running backs coach in 2013 and elevated him to offensive coordinator in 2018.
"I saw him as a captain of our Philly team," Reid said. "I saw it as a running backs coach. Everybody he touched seemed to be good."
And, of course, there is Bieniemy’s work with Patrick Mahomes, the wunderkind quarterback who has become an overnight star, led Kansas City to its second Super Bowl last season, and is poised to dominate the NFL for the next decade or more. Reid gets the lion’s share of credit when it comes to Mahomes’ development, but the coach is quick to point out that Bieniemy is a major contributor.
"I’ve seen him with Patrick, and Patrick’s pretty good, I’d say," Reid said. "I look at the end result, and he’s done a nice job with that. Those guys [like Bieniemy], that’s a hard thing to find. When you’re around him every day, you know it. I can tell you, you get a chance to be around him a while, and you’re going to be better for it."
Some team will be better for it in a much bigger way, because Bieniemy almost certainly will earn his chance in 2021. It may be with the Jets. Or the Texans or Falcons, two other teams already with head coaching vacancies. And there inevitably will be more openings in the months ahead.
The Jets already passed on him once. They may not be able to afford to do it a second time.