Ron Rivera smiled when asked if he had any early impressions of his new offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy. Following a highly successful run with the Chiefs, Bieniemy joined Rivera’s staff in Washington after not getting one of the previously vacant head coaching jobs this past offseason.
“He’s loud,” Rivera said with a smile. “The beauty of Eric is the perspective he has. He’s been with an organization that does some things differently. He’s very staunch about the way that he does things. That’s something that’s been different. I appreciate it, because we’re out of our comfort zone. We’re doing things a little bit differently. I’ve been doing things, for the most part, the same way for 12 years.
“This is something that’s been different. It’s been good for our guys, I think, as well, because you’re starting to have these, ‘Ah ha’ moments. … That’s been something that I think has been really good for us as an organization and as a team as far as I’m concerned.”
Rivera acknowledged that Bieniemy’s coaching style has been an adjustment for some of his players. He said that “a number of” his players came to speak to him regarding Bieniemy’s intensity.
“They were a little concerned,” Rivera said. “I’ve said, ‘Just go talk to him. Understand what he’s trying to get across to you.’ I think as they go and talk and listen to him, it’s been enlightening for a lot of these guys. It’s a whole different approach. You’re getting a different kind of player from the players back in the past, especially in light of how things are coming out of college football.
“A lot of these young guys, they do struggle with certain things. You also have to look at where they’ve been. Guys coming from certain programs are used to it, guys coming from other programs, not as much.
“I kind of have to assimilate and get a feel for everybody. Eric has an approach, and it’s the way he does things and he’s not going to change because he believes in it. Jack has his approach. Having been a head coach, I think Jack has a tendency to try to figure out guys a little bit more as opposed to this is it, this is the way it’s going to be, that type of stuff. Where Eric hasn’t had that experience yet.”
Bieniemy responded later in the day when asked about some players possibly being concerned with his coaching style.
“One thing I am, I’m an open book,” he said. “I always invite players in. But also, too, as I am going through this process. Yes, I am intense. I would be afraid, too, to start, if I didn’t know me. But on top of that, one thing they do appreciate is this: I’m always going to be up front and I’m always going to be honest.
“Just like I stated when I first got here, we’ve all got to get uncomfortable to get comfortable. There’s some new demands and expectations that I expect. I expect us to be the team that we’re supposed to be. It’s not going to be easy, and everybody is not going to like the process. But when it’s all said and done with, my job is to make sure that we’re doing it the right way. There’s a way to do it.
“Do they understand that? Yes, because they’ve seen the results. Will everybody buy in? I believe so, but if not, it’s OK. Because you know what? My No. 1 job is to help take these guys to another level, and I can see it [happening]. When you think about where we started in the spring to where we are right now, we’re making a lot of strides. I’m proud of these guys. Excuse my language, but it’s been some good s— to watch.”
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Bieniemy’s coaching style may not be for everyone. But it appears that several Commanders players have embraced what he brings to the table. One of those players is veteran wideout Terry McLaurin, who is used to playing for demanding coaches. McLaurin thrived at Ohio State while playing for Urban Meyer.
“I think I’ve noticed, even from my journey at Ohio State (I learned that) where you gain more through the unselfishness,” McLaurin recently said on The Pivot podcast. “You gain more when you put yourself on the side and putting all you can in for the team. I think EB breathes that. I think Coach Rivera has breathed that since he got here. I think the defense and their staff breathes that as well. And I think ownership breathes that. So I think we finally have that synergy to where we’ve got everything in the right direction. We’ve got the right people in the right places.”
Second-year tight end Cole Turner is also buying what Bieniemy is selling.
“Me and Coach Bieniemy have a great relationship,” Turner recently told 7News. “We talk a lot. He’s very straightforward with me and very honest. I feel like we have a good amount of trust between us. That really helps with the comfortability on the field when you know what someone expects of you.”
Not only is he happy with the work his offensive coordinator is doing, Rivera said that he would be open to mimicking Mike Vrabel’s decision to have Titans assistant coach Terrell Williams serve as head coach for a game this preseason.
“It’s a unique thing. It’s something that, probably in time, I seriously would consider doing,” Rivera said. “That’s probably a good thing, especially for guys that are in line to get an opportunity like that. The more we can do to help them so that when their opportunity comes and they’re ready to roll. Yeah, I can see doing something like that, eventually.”