Could the physical demands implemented by offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy become the spark that ignites the Washington Commanders in 2023?
Much has been made about Eric Bieniemy's impact across the Washington Commanders since his high-profile arrival from the Kansas City Chiefs. The respected offensive mind immediately began shaking things up in pursuit of maximizing what appeared to be a tremendous opportunity to enhance his own head coaching credentials, which was a rude awakening for many and certainly separated the men from the boys.
Ron Rivera's omission that certain players weren't happy with Bieniemy's methods was ill-advised. That might have been the case earlier this summer, but everyone seems on the same page right now and those who complained are probably searching for alternative employment after the Commanders got their roster down to an initial 53 this week.
Bieniemy is a passionate man who demands high standards of himself and the players at his disposal. Some might not like it, but one only has to listen to the glowing recommendations he received from the likes of Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Patrick Mahomes, and all-world tight end Travis Kelce to see the esteem in which he is held.
Eric Bieniemy's methods are starting to benefit Commanders
This was not exactly news to Rivera, either. He comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree - a man notorious for his physically demanding practices - something that Bieniemy modernized for the new NFL rules once he arrived at the Chiefs.
When Rivera asked Bieniemy to structure Washington's practices upon joining the Commanders, the head coach saw the similarities in terms of demands to the sessions Reid implemented in Philadelphia based on his comments via Sports Illustrated. The experienced figure hopes this has a similar impact in terms of on-field product when competitive action arrives.
"It's interesting, because I told you guys one of the things that I wanted Eric [Bieniemy] to do was I wanted him to script and schedule everything for Training Camp and he has. And looking at it, with the exception of it not being real two-a-days, it's almost very, very similar. I mean, Coach [Andy] Reid has never really changed anything. He may have refined some things, but the bones of it is very similar. If we had had two-a-days it might have been."- Ron Rivera via Sports Illustrated
We've already begun seeing improvements both in terms of practice intensity and execution during a game-day setting. The Commanders went 3-0 in the preseason - which doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things - but it does indicate increased expectations from Bieniemy and others are being met with a positive response ahead of a crossroads campaign for many within the franchise.
Bieniemy doesn't apologize for being old-school and nor should he. At the end of the day, this man cares deeply and wants the very best for his players - a mentality that is bringing the Commanders' offense together at an important time.
Obviously, this counts for nothing if quarterback Sam Howell cannot produce the goods. But one only has to look at the way he's flourished in recent weeks after some significant counsel from Bieniemy to see how this tough approach is working for most.
Coaches like Reid, Bieniemy, and Rivera are a dying breed in many respects. However, based on what's been evident across a galvanized Washington franchise this summer, there's life in the old dogs yet.