We can admit that the Washington commanders’ offensive coordinator search to date lacks allure. That could change this week, depending on everyone’s options.
The commanders weren’t waiting for the 2022 season to conclude on Sunday in Arizona before tackling a long to-do list. Expect the coordinator’s box to be checked soon, even if the Washington vacancy is over a month old. The commanders aim to interview the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, this week, once he finds time to celebrate Kansas City’s thrilling Super Bowl victory.
What we heard about Commanders at the Senior Bowl: Bieniemy’s OC nomination, draft target, and more
The search also includes a new name: former Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Coach Ron Rivera is expected to speak with the longtime player known for his rushing prowess soon, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Commander OC Update:
* Washington plans to interview former Ravens OC Greg Roman, source confirms (@john_keim 1°)
He spoke to the Ravens insider about Roman in the pod @jeffzrebiec
* Eric Bieniemy interview date is under construction. Parade schedule to consider
—BenStandig (@BenStandig) February 13, 2023
Bieniemy and Roman would become the seventh and eighth candidates interviewed since Washington fired Scott Turner in January after three seasons. They also represent the highest profile participants. As for Washington’s opener — especially Bieniemy, now a two-time Super Bowl champion in four years — many are asking why they would even consider joining a coaching staff without a hitting record in three years under Rivera (and an organization with an ownership conundrum).
Bieniemy, 53, apparently upped his stock after the Chiefs scored on each of their four second-half possessions during their 38-35 victory in Super Bowl LVII. According to Kansas City backup QB Chad Henne, Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes’ two red zone touchdown pass game draws resulted from Bieniemy’s pre-game homework.
“(Bieniemy) put it on tape and said, ‘Hey, like, if they do this, this guy is wide open. He’s the man (cover)’” Henne said. “They’re just trying to protect themselves from the jet sweep and trying to boil over the top and get an extra player (on the other end of the pitch). But we faked the jet twice and they didn’t get it.
As Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes created his biggest comeback in Super Bowl LVII
Who will call the plays and tutor the only Commanders quarterback in the fold for the 2023 season, sophomore passer Sam Howell? That’s the big story for most organizations at this point in the NFL calendar, especially if offensive coordinator for new car smell champions is a sincere option. Not here.
Determining Washington’s primary offseason storyline doesn’t require extensive insight. Will owner Dan Snyder sell the franchise he’s owned since 1999 in the near future? And if so, who is on the other side of the deal with a price between $5 and $7 billion? This dual uncertainty hovers over all aspects of the Commanders’ agenda.
The candidates asked Rivera about his future with the organization, as they should. The coach, who also oversees the front office, has two years remaining on a five-year deal signed in 2020, but that’s largely irrelevant. New owners tend to hire their own head coaches and general managers, especially if the team they buy hasn’t finished with a winning record in six seasons.
So why would Bieniemy or Roman, one of the league’s leading run-game schemers, consider joining this uncertainty? Options.
Washington has not been a place for skilled or endearing coaches. Regardless of the team’s final record, Rivera and staff could exit after the 2023 season. A new coordinator could secure a two-year contract as financial cover, but that still means facing unemployment within 12 months.
Rivera’s need for immediate success after the Commanders squandered a playoff berth at the end of the 2022 season has led to logical speculation that he prefers a coordinator with prior experience.
Pat Shurmur, Ken Zampese and Anthony Lynn fit into this categorization. Based on reports, no one has interviewed a team other than Washington. The same goes for Dolphins assistant head coach/RB coach Eric Studesville, who has never been the only OC on an NFL team (he split Miami duties in 2021 with George Godsey).
This month, Charles London, 48, left the Falcons to become the Titans’ QB coach and passing game coordinator. Rams assistant head coach Thomas Brown, 36, has upcoming interviews with the Buccaneers and Panthers. None of these six returned for a second talk with Washington.
You don’t need up-and-coming assistants like London and Brown to make such a leap. Some say the same for Bieniemy.
Staying with Kansas City rather than taking these risky opportunities may not be a consideration. Bieniemy’s contract expired after the Super Bowl. Matt Nagy, the coordinator Bieniemy replaced in 2018 when Nagy accepted the Chicago Bears head coaching job, rejoined Reid’s staff this season as a senior assistant and QB coach. Persistent chatter in some corners of the NFL sends Nagy back to coordinator role if Bieniemy exits.
“Eric Bieniemy has been great for us, and I think he’s great for the National Football League,” Reid said, per ESPN. “I hope he gets the opportunity to go somewhere and do his own thing where he can run the show and be Eric Bieniemy.”
An eternal bridesmaid in head coaching cycles, Bieniemy interviewed for this year’s opener for the Indianapolis Colts. The AFC South team is expected to hire Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, leaving the Cardinals as the sole opener. Arizona’s list of reported finalists does not include Bieniemy.
With Shane Steichen expected to land in Indianapolis, here’s more on the Eagles’ offensive coordinator who looks to coach his final game with the Eagles today:
—Zach Berman (@ZBerm) February 12, 2023
Having already conducted a second interview with candidates, Baltimore is in the Bieniemy market. (UPDATE: The Ravens announced Tuesday morning that they are hiring Georgia’s Todd Monken as their new OC.) History would make that a no-brainer for Bieniemy. During Snyder’s several years in Washington, Baltimore has become one of the winningest teams in the league and has 10 playoff appearances in the past 15 years, including this season and their 2012 Super Bowl winning campaign.
Now the Ravens have their own headache, as extension talks with free agent quarterback Lamar Jackson remain bumpy. Rivera venerates Reid, his former boss in Philadelphia. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh is also part of Reid’s coaching tree.
Roman, a three-time coordinator, became a speculative target weeks ago, even before his stint in Baltimore ended. At Washington’s end-of-season press conference, Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew loudly declared their desire to be a run-first team. In 10 seasons as offensive coordinator with San Francisco, Buffalo and Baltimore, Roman’s teams finished in the top four in rushing yards nine times, with the lone exception being the 2011 Niners who finished eighth.
The inability to marry the running game and the passing attack, particularly in the red zone, doomed Roman in Baltimore. The Ravens ranked first in scoring (33.2) in 2019, but dropped to 19th in 2022 with 20.6 points per game. His offense is not considered wide receiver-friendly, hardly ideal for a roster that includes Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson.
However, running backs Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson could take advantage, and Rivera may not find a better run-game tactician. Speaking of availability, Roman has yet to have any known interviews with other teams. Washington may be his only chance if he is to handle OC duties for the fourth time.
Perhaps none of this matters. Zampese, coach of the Washington QBs, would be the simplest choice. The former Bengals OC has worked with Howell last season and players like McLaurin, Gibson and tight end Logan Thomas since 2020. No bidding wars here and at an affordable price. Shurmur, the first interview, would be a largely plug-and-play option that offers a new perspective.
Making this decision will remove a large amount of consideration from Rivera’s plate. That plate will remain full regardless, with free agency looming. Money, if available, can affect players. Otherwise, Commanders will sift through hundreds of incoming prospects to fill the remaining gaps. They are playing in a much shallower talent pool with realistic coordinator research. We’ll soon know if Bieniemy and Roman are interested in swimming with Washington.
(Photo: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)