Eric Bieniemy should be a frontrunner for the Green Bay Packers head coach job.
Most Packers fans knew the end was near for longtime head coach, Mike McCarthy, but very few expected him to be gone before season’s end.
As a matter of fact, many fans were clamoring to have him fired immediately after an awful loss to the 2-9 Arizona Cardinals, some even before that game, but even those leading the charge to have McCarthy fired did not believe that it would happen so soon.
Whether a fan was a proponent of McCarthy being fired or not, they were completely and utterly shocked when the news broke on Sunday evening.
In the hours and days proceeding the firing of McCarthy, analysts and fans alike gave their two cents on the Green Bay Packers firing a head coach in-season for the first time in franchise history.
Many people found the move completely disrespectful to a coach who has brought much success and a Super Bowl to Green Bay, while others were so fed up with this team’s awful 2018 performance that they understood getting rid of McCarthy now and starting the head coach search a month early.
Now, the questions are, will the Packers make the right hire to replace McCarthy and restore greatness in Green Bay? Will the new head coach be a creative offensive mind, following the trend sweeping the NFL with head coach hirings with high-flying offenses?
We won’t know the answer to that first question until we see this team perform under a new coach’s regime. We also won’t know the answer to that second question until the new hire takes place, but what can I tell you pertaining to that second question, is that Packers fans want a new head coach who can bring an elite and innovative offense back to Green Bay.
Packers fans watch offenses, such as the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, and New Orleans Saints, put points on the board like crazy and find ways to leave defenses guessing and confused. Then they wonder why an Aaron Rodgers-led offense with a couple of elite playmakers ranked 16th in the league in points per game entering Week 14.
A fresh, innovative offensive mind, predicated on a continuously evolving offense is what is needed in Green Bay.
This is why I believe Eric Bieniemy should be a frontrunner for the Green Bay Packers head coaching position.
Current position: Offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs
Past positions held: University of Colorado running backs coach (2001-2002), UCLA running backs coach (2003-2005), Minnesota Vikings running backs coach (2006-2010), University of Colorado offensive coordinator (2011-2012), Kansas City Chiefs running backs coach (2013-2017)
Could Bieniemy be the next assistant poached from Andy Reid‘s coaching staff?
Even after only being the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs since the start of the 2018 season, it is not even close to out of the question that Bieniemy is given a chance to be a head coach elsewhere after this season. And he’s already mentioned that he is open to the possibility of interviewing for head coaching jobs.
Bieniemy played almost a decade in the league at running back. He played for the San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles.
Being a player in the league for that long gives him a better idea of how to get the most out of his players and what type of things motivate them, as well as first-hand knowledge of what it takes to find continuous success in order for players to advance and sustain their careers in the NFL.
Something we have heard constantly this season is the need for more creativity and innovation on offense. Multiple ex-Packers have spoken about how the offense has not evolved like other offenses in the league have. Bieniemy is the perfect remedy for an offense needing innovative ideas and creative play design.
In a recent interview on The Adam Schefter Podcast, Bieniemy had this to say in regards to working together with Andy Reid on the offensive gameplan:
"“One thing I’ve learned from coach is to always remain flexible. In order to expand, you always want to stay a step or two ahead of everyone and what they’re thinking around the league. And so, that’s been one thing that I love – the creativity and the conversations that we have, and just the way we study, we approach things, and we piece it together.”"
Just listening to that short bit made me think about how good of a fit Bieniemy would be for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense.
The Packers offense has not been continuously evolving and doing its best to stay a step or two ahead of everyone with their offensive gameplan, and their ability to stay flexible on offense is almost non-existent, it is very reliant upon Rodgers making a big play.
Something that has been lacking in recent years, and is especially evident this season, is the offense’s attention to detail. This is something that Chiefs players and coaches praise Bieniemy for, his strong attention to detail across the entire offense.
As a matter of fact, this is the first time in Andy Reid’s coaching career where he has an ex-NFL player as his offensive coordinator who did not play the quarterback position. This is because quarterbacks have to have a complete overview of every position on the offense and have to know the offense with such great detail, but Bieniemy, the ex-running back, has that same vision and attention to detail.
Bieniemy was responsible for developing Maurice Jones-Drew in his college years at UCLA, then went on to help develop Adrian Peterson in his first years as a Minnesota Viking, and helped Jamaal Charles and Kareem Hunt become major threats in the backfield for the Chiefs.
Which makes me believe that he could bring out the greatness in Aaron Jones and find ways to get him the ball on a much more consistent basis in a plethora of different ways. He could bring a strong balance to this offense that hasn’t been seen along with Aaron Rodgers since the early years with a productive Eddie Lacy.
As Rodgers moves into the second half of his 30s, balance on offense will need to be more and more relevant. Not only will balance on offense be key in the coming years for an Aaron Rodgers-led offense, but an effective short-to-intermediate game must become more of an integral part of this offense.
It has become very apparent this season that McCarthy has wanted to have a focus on getting the ball downfield more often, as proven by Rodgers’ highest yards per attempt since the 2014 season, at 7.6 yards per attempt in 2018 entering Week 14.
You can see what McCarthy was attempting to create, which is a mirror image of the two best offenses in Packers recent history, the 2011 and 2014 offenses. Those seasons consisted of Rodgers’ two seasons with the highest yards per attempt, with 9.2 yards per attempt in 2011 and 8.4 yards per attempt in 2014.
The issue is, this team has nowhere near the amount of weapons Rodgers had at his disposal on those teams and the offense has not done enough evolving to match that type of production.
This is where I believe Bieniemy could really save this offense. The way the Chiefs utilize a very effective short and intermediate game to open up big plays downfield is a large reason for their success on offense.
When watching the Chiefs offense, you see so many creative intermediate crossing routes that leave the defense confused and allows the offense to exploit the middle of the field.
You also see a plethora of different creative screen passes getting their playmakers out on the edge in space, creating an easy completion for the quarterback and letting a playmaker create yards after the catch.
This type of effectiveness on underneath routes and screen passes gets defenses playing up and defenders looking for shallow and intermediate crossers to intercept, that is when the big play happens down the field.
Even while the short and intermediate passing game has been so successful for the Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes‘ yards per attempt is currently at 9.1 on the season, .1 yards per attempt lower than Rodgers’ prolific 2011 season.
I envision Bieniemy using Aaron Jones very similarly to Kareem Hunt, getting him more attempts in the passing game out in space and finding more creative ways in the run game to get him the ball and allow for him to make plays.
With more creative play design and simpler solutions to creating yards on offense, plus a better balance on offense – this team and this offense could return to playing championship football by next season.
Because Bieniemy’s focus has only been on the offensive side of the ball throughout his entire coaching career, as well as the fact that he has little experience in a chief coordinating position of a team, I believe he is more apt to keep Mike Pettine on as defensive coordinator.
I have been and will continue to advocate for Pettine staying on as this team’s defensive coordinator. A younger coach who has only focused on the offensive side of the ball could really benefit from having a creative defensive coordinator who has head coaching experience in the league and has done plenty to improve a Packers defense with a very average roster.