When the Chiefs officially named running backs coach Eric Bieniemy their new offensive coordinator on Tuesday, at least one former colleague of his smiled.
Bieniemy, 48, has served as the Chiefs’ running backs coach since 2013, when he arrived in Kansas City with coach Andy Reid. He replaces Matt Nagy, who was recently hired as head coach of the Chicago Bears.
And Buffalo Bills quarterbacks coach David Culley — who coached with Bieniemy in Kansas City from 2013 to 2016, when Culley served as the Chiefs’ receivers coach — couldn’t be happier.
“I have the utmost respect for him as a coach — there’s nobody on the staff more deserving to be next coordinator than Eric Bieniemy,” Culley told The Star, when reached by phone Tuesday evening.
Culley specifically cited Bieniemy’s passion — his loud, booming voice is legendary for reverberating throughout the field during practice — as one of his best traits, one he’s consistently used to get the most out of his players since his arrival in Kansas City.
“I’ll tell you this about him — I’ve never been around anybody that loves his players and coaches more than he does,” Culley said. “They trust him, they know he believes in them and they know he has their best interest at heart. That’s why you always see his guys play to their maximum ability.”
A good example of that came in 2015, when the Chiefs lost star running back Jamaal Charles for the season in the fifth game of the season. Bieniemy prodded and cajoled his replacements, Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, into legitimate NFL contributors who remain on the team to this day. Others Bieniemy has gotten positive contributions from include Joe McKnight and Knile Davis.
“You look at those guys on that roster that have to go in and play due to injuries, and you’d think those guys are starters,” Culley said.
This year, Bieniemy helped rookie third-round running back Kareem Hunt become the NFL’s leading rusher following a season-ending knee injury to Ware in the preseason.
Bieniemy will have a new challenge this season when it comes to guiding the Chiefs’ offense, though he does have experience calling plays during 2011-12 at Colorado, his alma mater. Before that, he spent five seasons as the Minnesota Vikings’ running backs coach while mentoring star Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 5,782 yards and 52 touchdowns in four seasons under Bieniemy.
And while Reid will certainly have influence on the offense — he’s consistently run the daily offensive play installation sessions since he got here, even as former coordinators Doug Pederson and Nagy earned more responsibility — Culley said Chiefs fans can expect balance from a Bieniemy-inspired attack.
“There’s no question but he understands balance in football, you have to be able to do both,” Culley said. “He understands that, and without a doubt, he gets that. He knows Andy’s system; he’s coached in it and he’s played in it in Philadelphia and that’s a great combination.”
Bieniemy, a former running back who played for the Chargers, Bengals and Eagles for nine years, also served as the running backs coach at UCLA from 2003 to 2005.
“I’ve known Eric a long time, both as a player and a coach,” Reid said in a statement. “He’s done a phenomenal job with our running backs and been involved in every aspect of our offense over the last five years. He’s a great teacher and has earned this opportunity. I know he will do a good job.”