Commanders’ Rivera has a backup plan if Eric Bieniemy pursuit falls short

Rivera has a backup plan in case Bieniemy pursuit falls short originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington


Many Commanders fans want to know why Ron Rivera is taking the slow road to hiring a new offensive coordinator.

The answer is simple: Because he can.

Washington’s head coach and football boss has the authority inside the building to take his time, and considering the team’s interest in Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Rivera is in no hurry.

It’s been widely reported that Washington wants to interview Bieniemy after the Super Bowl, and now that the Chiefs have won another ring, his schedule should open up. There will be competition among other interested teams and that could include the Baltimore Ravens.

With the NFL’s championship game finalized and another Lombardi Trophy heading to Kansas City, the Commanders need to sit and wait for their chance to talk to Bieniemy.

And for Rivera, that’s not a problem.

That’s because he knows even if Beiniemy doesn’t come to Washington, or worse chooses not to even interview with Washington, the Commanders can still land a new play-caller that Rivera is confident can get the job done.

Enter Pat Shurmur.

Washington interviewed the former Giants and Browns head coach almost immediately after their season ended. No other team has interviewed Shurmur for the job of offensive coordinator, and speaking with league sources, none are expected.

If Rivera wants to wait around and see if Bieniemy will come to Washington, he has the backup plan of hiring Shurmur if that plan doesn’t work out. Rivera and Shurmur came up through the coaching ranks in Philadelphia on Andy Reid’s famed Eagles staff and there was some talk Shurmur could join the Washington staff in 2020 when Rivera took over. He landed the Broncos’ OC job instead when Rivera decided to give Scott Turner a chance.

So while some fans grumble about Rivera enjoying the Pebble Beach Pro-Am or waiting too long instead of finalizing his coaching staff for the 2023 season, the Commanders head coach might just have slow-played this hire the right way.

There are other candidates – Ken Zampese is already in the building and Anthony Lynn would bring head coaching experience to the coordinator role.

Bieniemy seems to be the top candidate, and after the offensive performance put out by Kansas City in the Super Bowl, he deserves to be. Whether Andy Reid is the real offensive mastermind, or the success can be attributed to Patrick Mahomes, still Bieniemy is the only coach close to that level of chain-moving prowess of any candidate connected to Washington.

After the Super Bowl, Reid twice went out of his way to talk about Bieniemy, and while the offensive coordinator might want a head coaching job at least right now it looks like that won’t happen.

So why leave a dynasty like KC to go to D.C.? It might seem crazy but it’s fairly simple.

As long as Bieniemy is part of the Chiefs offense, outsiders will view his success as a byproduct of working with Reid and Mahomes. If Bieniemy can come to Washington and forge a highly productive offense, he can claim the credit all on his own.

This will be a telling week in the offensive coordinator search.

Rivera has an opportunity to claim a big win if he lands Beiniemy. If that doesn’t happen and Washington lands with somebody Rivera’s familiar and comfortable with, the coach might be content, though fans would be much harder to please.

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