Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera said on Wednesday he spoke to Eric Bieniemy about his comments that some players expressed concern over the first-year offensive coordinator’s coaching style, apologizing for the remarks that put him in hot water around the NFL.
Rivera attempted to clarify what he said about players coming to him to ask about Bieniemy’s vocal approach on the practice field.
“I basically told him I put my foot in my mouth,” Rivera said. “I think what I said wasn’t as clear as it needed to be. I think the understanding of it is just the fact that I think everybody’s making, in my opinion, a little bit more than needs to be made of this. Because again, the results are what you’re looking for on the field, and so far, the last couple days have been outstanding.
“I think Eric has done a great job of communicating his message now that guys have opened up, talked with him, he’s opened up to them. It’s been a great bit of growth the last couple of days that guys are starting to have the ‘a-ha’ moments.”
Rivera, who hired Bieniemy fresh off the longtime assistant winning a second Super Bowl with Kansas City, said it was his intent to explain that coaches have different ways of doing things. He did that by contrasting Bieniemy with defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who like Rivera has been a head coach in the pros before.
Bieniemy has not been hired for a head job in the NFL, despite interviewing with nearly half the league.
Players who worked under Bieniemy with the Chiefs came to his defense, including now-Miami receiver Tyreek Hill, who said on social media, “There is no other coach that has your back” like Bieniemy.
“Take that coaching and get better,” Hill posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “It’s tough but I promise you it will make you better.”
Bieniemy defended himself on Tuesday, saying he has always been an intense coach who demands a lot from players.
“My job is to make sure that we’re doing it the right way,” Bieniemy said. “There’s a way to do it. Do they understand that? Yes, because they’re seeing 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.”
NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes has described Bieniemy as “always on” and said he “sets the standard at the highest level” for players.
That doesn’t mean they were always in lockstep. Entering the half-time locker room of an eventual loss to the Indianapolis Colts last season, Mahomes and Bieniemy had an on-field shouting match that both dismissed as frustration.
Bieniemy spent five seasons with the Chiefs before coach Andy Reid allowed him to exit for a play-calling role with Rivera and the Commanders. Rivera and Reid are close friends.
“This is his now,” Reid said of why it made sense for Bieniemy to go to Washington. “He’s working for Ron Rivera, who’s a dear friend, and more of a defensive head coach than offensive head coach, so this allows EB to do his thing, and I’m happy for him.”
On Wednesday, Rivera likened Bieniemy’s style to the hard-nosed approaches favored by Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan, the famed coaches under whom he played from 1984 through 1992.
“I’ve probably played for two of the toughest throwback guys that you could have, and to me, Eric is a little bit of a throwback,” he said.