Why hasn't Eric Bieniemy been named Commanders head coach?

Why hasn't Eric Bieniemy been named Commanders head coach?

Somehow the Carolina Panthers hired a head coach before the Washington Commanders. They did not get one of the hottest names on the market — some of those candidates stayed in their coordinator positions — but they did find someone to take the gig. After one season as an OC, Dave Canales is the new head coach of the Panthers. Best of luck to him as he deals with the trials and tribulations in his personal life, as well as the new ones coming his way as one of David Tepper’s employees. That leaves the Commanders as the only NFL team with no head coach, and they do not appear to be in a hurry to hire one.

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said on Sportscenter that the Commanders’ top choices are Dan Quinn, Aaron Glenn, and Anthony Weaver, but since they have no teams left to compete with for a head coach, they are going to move forward with the process of hiring one at their own pace.

“There’s no rush in Washington to get something done right now,” Schefter said on Sportscenter. “They may take their time here, whether that’s a day or a week we’ll see.

Sure, take all the time you want, Commanders. It’s not like there is anything important going on this week. Except for a critical scouting event known as the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where highly touted draft picks are in pads and competing head-to-head in practice. With there being no definitive answer to their head coaching search, it is reasonable to wonder why offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is not a front-runner for the gig.

Washington made a big deal about hiring him last year. Rarely, if ever, is a press conference for a new offensive coordinator treated like a head coaching hire. He was brought in to juice up an offense for a team that could have made the playoffs last season if that side of the ball provided any firepower.

Unfortunately, for Bieniemy, the defense was a great deal worse in 2023 than in 2022. One of their best defensive backs, Darrick Forrest, spent most of the season on IR with a shoulder injury, and the defensive line was gutted after Chase Young and Montez Sweat were traded during the season. That unit finished the season 31st in Defensive DVOA. A precipitous drop like that might be why the Commanders’ top three choices for head coach are currently all defensive coordinators, according to Schefter.

On offense, Sam Howell threw for a lot of yards and interceptions. Brian Robinson Jr. had one helluva comeback season after being shot in the leg six weeks prior to the start of 2022. Still, the offense finished 26th in DVOA and its five yards per play ranked in the bottom half of the league. Even though the Commanders’ offense had its explosive moments early in the season, the fact that it frequently struggled to get Terry McLaurin the ball was a problem. Howell threw for nearly 4,000 yards even with Jacoby Brissett cutting into his snaps during Weeks 15 and 16. McLaurin should have finished the year with far more than 1,009 yards.

After the season, the Commanders averaged about a half point more per game than in 2022, and their yards per play ticked up barely from 4.9, to 5. In fairness to Bieniemy, he was handed a turnover-prone QB in his first season as a starter, and an offensive line that in no way bears resemblance to the Hogs of the past.

At least Washington bottomed out for a draft that can reward the failure. With the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, Bieniemy will get a quarterback who he can attempt to mold in his image, and also use for his next head coaching audition.

The Commanders did interview him for their head coach opening, but as of Schefter’s Sportscenter hit, it does not appear likely that the job will go to Bieniemy. Maybe Drake Maye will win Offensive Rookie of the Year next season and nudge Bieniemy into his first head coaching gig.

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.