Pro Football Talk: ‘Commanders is the right move for Bieniemy’

PFT explains why the Commanders were the right move for Bieniemy.

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“He’s very hard on us and he sets a high standard as you guys can probably tell,” said new Commanders quarterback Sam Howell about his new offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy.

“That’s what we want, we want to be coached hard and we want to play for someone who has a high standard. It’s been really good. Obviously, its a really good system and I think it will be a good way for us to use the weapons that we have. I am excited,” said Howell.

Thursday, Pro Football Talk hosts Mike Florio and Chris Simms both expressed their belief in the hire of Bieniemy for the Commanders and as a future head coach in the NFL.

Florio said for Bieniemy it was a case of, “My ship is never going to come in, in Kansas City. It’s just not going to happen. I’ve got to go somewhere else where people will at least perceive I have more responsibility in the offense. He’s changing the construct enough to maybe get people to notice ‘I could be a pretty good coach.’ So maybe it will happen for him after a year or two in Washington.”

Simms affirmed Florio’s view, “You heard what Howell said; it’s cut-throat; the guy is in your face. He handled some personalities in Kansas City and did a great job. ”

“I am kind of excited about what the Commanders can be on offense. I am excited to see what Sam Howell can be. He’s got a natural feel for the game. He’s a good down-the-field thrower, Mike. That is definitely one of the positives about him coming out of North Carolina.”

“This might save some jobs (Ron Rivera and his staff). Maybe get Eric Bieniemy a new job, right?”

New owner Josh Harris will bring high standards to the Commanders

One of Josh Harris’ teams made a big move Tuesday. How could it relate to the Commanders?

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Washington Commanders owner-in-waiting Josh Harris made a huge move Tuesday… he fired his head basketball coach.

His basketball team, the Philadelphia 76ers had concluded their most successful regular season since the 2000-01 season, as this year’s club won 54 of their 82 regular season games.

However, for the third consecutive season, the 76ers led by head coach “Doc” Rivers were unable to advance beyond the second round of the Eastern Conference NBA playoffs.

In fact, the 76ers under Rivers complied a 154-82 (.653) record and winning percentage. Yet, two days following their hard-fought 7-game series loss to the Boston Celtics, Rivers has been relieved of his duties.

Harris is about to take the reigns of the NFL’s Washington Commanders. The Commanders are coached by Ron Rivera who came to Washington in January of 2020. In his three NFL seasons in Washington, Rivera’s teams have compiled records of 7-9, 7-10 and 8-8-1.

76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey’s statement following the firing of Rivers included, “After having the chance to reflect upon our season, we decided that certain changes are necessary to further our goals of competing for a championship.”

Was Morey conveying that he and Harris agreed that they did not feel Rivers could take the team any further than he had in his three seasons?

Rivers led his team to three winning seasons and three first-round series victories in the playoffs as well. Yet, Rivers is no longer employed by Harris.

If Harris possesses such high standards for Rivers, what might this say for Ron Rivera, entering his fourth season in September, having not yet obtained a winning record?

Rivera has been to the NFC Conference championship game once, winning in 2015,  before losing the Super Bowl to the Denver Broncos. He has coached in eight NFL playoff games, winning three.

Further, Rivera also has the circumstances of his starting quarterback having played in only one NFL game prior to the 2023 season opener. His offensive line fell off considerably in 2022 from their 2021 performance.

Ron Rivera will no doubt need to have some success this upcoming season if he is to survive to his final season in his contract (2024).

The least we can say today is there is no question Harris now has the attention of the Commanders’ coaching staff much more than he did prior to the 76ers’ game-seven loss to the Celtics.

Commanders quarterback coach Tavita Pritchard’s uncle played QB in the NFL

Pritchard played QB at Stanford before becoming a coach, but his uncle was a successful college QB before being drafted into the NFL.

Commanders fans may be unaware, but new quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard had an uncle who played in the NFL.

Pritchard himself started at Stanford in 2007 and 2008. Those as old as I am will remember that before his uncle quarterbacked in the NFL, he also played in the PAC-8.

Pritchard’s uncle was a quarterback starter at Washington State, Jack “The Throwin’ Samoan” Thompson. Thompson finished ninth in the 1978 Heisman Trophy voting and then was selected third overall in the 1979 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.

With the Bengals from 1979-82, Thompson received little to no playing time, being unable to unseat veteran starter Ken Anderson. In those four seasons, Thompson managed only five starts (1-4), 13 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions.

Looking to desperately replace Doug Williams (who would later quarterback Washington to a Super Bowl XXII 42-10 win over Denver), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers unbelievably traded their first-round choice in the 1984 draft to the Bengals for Thompson.

Thompson closed out his NFL career the next two seasons in Tampa, going 3-13 as the starter, throwing 20 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions.

Pritchard’s uncle (Thompson), however did enjoy a fine college career at Washington State passing for 601 completions and 53 touchdown passes. Washington State retired his No. 14 jersey as he was all-PAC-8 three seasons.

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Former NFL QB confident in Commanders and QB Sam Howell

High praise for Sam Howell.

“If Sam Howell plays to the way they had him graded coming out of the draft, this is a playoff caliber football team, if they treat him like a young Russell Wilson.”

That was the immediate response of former NFL quarterback and current ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orvlosky this week when asked about the Commanders and their two quarterbacks Howell and recently-signed free agent Jacoby Brissett.

However, to note, Orvlosky talked only about Howell and, in the entire segment, did not reply concerning Brissett.

Also of note, listeners must keep in mind these NFL analysts don’t have the time to concentrate on one team, such as those who follow the Commanders. This became apparent a couple of times in his response.

He added, “This is an offensive roster that offensive line-wise is a good unit. They just signed Wylie (Andrew) from the Kansas City Chiefs at right tackle.”

“They’ve got Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, a good young tight end.” (It was not clear. To which tight end was Orvlosky referring? If the operative word was “young, “John Bates? Armani Rogers? Cole Turner? If the operative word was “good,” Logan Thomas?

“Robinson (Brian) emerged as their bell cow tailback, with Gibson (Antonio) as like the influx or the change-up. And the last part is this, the question is, ‘Who is Eric Bieniemy’?”

“I’m not talking about the intelligence or the ability to understand offense. We don’t know who Eric Bieniemy, their new play-caller is identity-wise.”

“If this offense is of the identity that was that new early Seattle Seahawk, you know, play great defense, run the football, ask your quarterback to throw it 18 to 20 times?”

“I absolutely think Sam Howell can do that at a high level, and this could be a playoff football team.”

New Commander Andrew Wylie: ‘It’s gonna be a culture change for sure’

Andrew Wylie is a big fan of Eric Bieniemy.

New Commanders offensive lineman Andrew Wylie met with the Washington media Thursday, communicating he is glad to be reuniting with Washington’s new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

“That’s great to have EB have so much confidence in me and push for me to get here,” said Wylie.

“For me to have the opportunity to continue to work under his offense is just incredible to me. So that was for sure the driving factor.”

Those who don’t yet know Bieniemy well, Wylie says they will find “he’s intense. He’s a very intense guy, and he needs things his way. It’s gonna be a culture change for sure, and I’m just looking to carry it on.”

“It’s a good offense, scores a lot of points. EB is really the driving factor behind it. It’s an incredible opportunity to be here and to play under him. I’m just really excited to get after it.”

Wylie expressed he is ready to do whatever needs to be done, embrace the supportive veteran role, and even stating he will play wherever he is needed as well.

Pointing to his time in Kansas City, Wylie conveyed Andy Reid, Bieniemy and offensive line coach Andy Heck were all instrumental in his development as an NFL lineman.

“Practice habits,” Wylie stressed, are what EB preaches most, saying with the Chiefs Bieniemy had them “busting it.” The Chiefs’ “culture was built in practice,” Wylie expressed.

Wylie stated Bieniemy is “super loud,” “commands the room,” and “he commands the respect of every man in the room.”

The first impression for Wylie of Ron Rivera following their breakfast meeting is that Rivera is “a player’s coach, real supportive of the players” and gave Wylie “a real warm welcome here”.

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Commanders hire Bobby Engram as new wide receivers coach

The Commanders also added two others to the coaching staff.

The Washington Commanders finally hired a new wide receivers coach. The team announced Wednesday it had hired former NFL wide receiver Bobby Engram as the new wide receivers coach.

The 50-year-old Engram played 14 NFL seasons between three teams [Bears, Seahawks & Chiefs] after a standout career at Penn State. Engram was a second-round pick in the 1996 NFL draft and finished his pro career with 650 receptions for 7,751 yards and 35 touchdowns.

Engram began his coaching career in 2011 with the San Francisco 49ers. In 2012, he was named wide receivers coach at the University of Pittsburgh, where he stayed for two seasons. Engram returned to the NFL in 2014 as the wide receivers coach for the Baltimore Ravens. He held that role for five seasons, and in 2019, Engram moved to tight ends coach. He was in that position for the next three years and departed Baltimore after the 2021 season.

Engram was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Wisconsin last year. However, the Badgers made a coaching change, and Engram was a free agent. He interviewed with Washington last week.

Engram isn’t the only newcomer to Washington’s staff.

The Commanders hired Shane Toub as an offensive quality control coach and Reggie Howard as a defensive quality control assistant. Toub is the son of Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub, who worked with new Washington offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for years. Howard was a co-defensive coordinator at Campbell last season and spent parts of seven seasons in the NFL as a player. This is his first NFL coaching job.

Toub worked as a quality control coach with the Bears and spent the 2022. season at Kansas.

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Ravens hire Chiefs running backs coach Greg Lewis to coaching staff

Greg Lewis interviewed with the Commanders after the hiring of Eric Bieniemy.

One of the top contenders for a role on new Washington offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s staff has a new job — and he’s not coming to the Commanders.

Greg Lewis, a former NFL wide receiver with the Philadelphia Eagles, has spent the past six seasons as a member of Andy Reid’s coaching staff with the Chiefs. The first four as wide receivers coach and the last two as running backs coach.

Now, Lewis has a new job. He’ll be joining the Baltimore Ravens as wide receivers coach under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

Lewis interviewed with the Commanders along with Tavita Pritchard after Bieniemy landed the Washington job. Pritchard was eventually named quarterbacks coach, but the Commanders continued to interview possible WR coaches, including Karl Dorrell and Bobby Engram.

The Commanders have yet to name a new wide receivers coach.

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Andy Reid: Commanders ‘are getting juice’ with Bieniemy

Andy Reid hated losing Beiniemy but wants him to land a head-coaching job. He believes he and Ron Rivera will work well together.

“I can brag on him (Eric Bieniemy) all day,” said Andy Reid opening his time with Brian Mitchell and JP Finlay on 106.7 The Fan Tuesday.

Reid, former Philadelphia Eagles coach, and current Kansas City Chiefs head coach has coached in four Super Bowls, winning two. Mitchell upfront praised Reid as someone who worked to understand his players.

Finlay was direct asking why would a successful offensive coordinator like Bieniemy leave Reid, Patrick Mahomes Travis Kelcie and winning Super Bowls to take the Commanders offensive coordinator’s job?

Reid replied that he and Bieniemy talked often, keeping the communications line open. “I’m not telling you I wanted to lose him to Washington, but at the same time, you want what is best for your guys.”

Reid expressed Bieniemy has worked hard towards the opportunity for a head coach job, but it hasn’t yet worked out, “some of it was because I think of the shadow I cast. And we talked about it. This gives him an opportunity to run his show.”

“I told EB if he could get with a defensive head coach, then normally what they are going to do is let you run with it (offense). That is what he is going to be able to do. That way he puts his name on it. There is no more Andy Reid on the sideline. It is all about EB, and he deserves that opportunity.”

“He will work great with Ron; Ron is phenomenal. They are two different personality types, but both of them love ball and both of them can teach.”

Mitchell inquired regarding what he called “the myth” that Bieniemy doesn’t get along with his players. Reid agreed, “Yes, you need some juice in this thing. That is what the Commanders are getting; they are getting juice with EB. He loves his players.”

“He is going to tell them when they are doing good and when they are not doing good. He is going to teach them how to do better when they screw up. I think every player wants this, and that is how he operates. He is going to come at you. He is going to challenge you. That is healthy. There is nothing wrong with that.

“He wants to give everybody the opportunity to be great. If the guys are willing to accept that and actually try to be great and not just talk about it, then you are going to win a lot of games.”

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Former Washington RB Brian Mitchell: ‘Coaches today are not as strong’

He wasn’t talking about any specific coaches, instead comparing the current era to his era.

Friday, former Washington running back Brian Mitchell had some strong words for some current NFL coaches.

Mitchell was asked a question about Washington’s scouting not finding some great players out there as Bobby Beathard did in the 1980s.

I attempted to follow Mitchell’s reasoning, but honestly, he lost me to some degree. When suddenly, Mitchell was stating he doesn’t believe coaches are as strong emotionally as the coaches were when he played in the NFL.

Here is the exchange.

“I am going to say this, and I don’t care if the coaches get mad or not. Coaches in my era didn’t take things personally.”

“The coaches back then were able to have an argument with a player, and it was over with, just like you have an argument with your brother. Coaches today seem to be afraid of someone who is not afraid of them. And I think when it comes down to scouting, sometimes social media helps us find things that is very beneficial. But everybody that once made a mistake is not always going to be that person.”

“I played with a lot of guys who had made some mistakes, but they were no longer that (same) guy. A lot of coaches were able to look past that, or they put you with someone whom they felt could guide you.”

“I think coaches today are not as strong as the men who were leading men back in the day. A lot of these dudes (coaches) play this little political game and they want to promote themselves and present themselves in a certain way, but they are not the leaders they claim they are.”

Mitchell has many times praised Joe Gibbs for being humble, yet internally a very strong man. On this day, Mitchell did not clarify by naming any coaches in particular by name.

The previous day, Mitchell had been rather direct in criticism of current Washington head coach Ron Rivera, saying sometimes Rivera talked too much. 

How should the Commanders/Rivera feel about Florida QB Anthony Richardson?

The Commanders need help in 2023, and Anthony Richardson may not provide that.

Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson as expected, has tested extremely well, breaking some NFL Scouting Combine QB marks.

How should the Commanders feel about Richardson?

If you like SEC football and watched even just a few of the Florida Gators 2022 games, you most likely saw QB Anthony Richardson make some spectacular plays.

Consequently, for those who have seen many of Richardson’s games for Florida, it was absolutely not the slightest surprise to find Richardson at the scouting combine scoring the highest among quarterbacks in the 40, the vertical jump and broad jump. Richardson is simply one of the most explosive athletes to have ever played the position.

Head coach Ron Rivera made it clear this past week that for now, Sam Howell is the QB1, but he is not necessarily the starter. Understandably, Howell is Rivera’s top guy for now. If anyone comes his way that he feels can be the starter, then, of course, Rivera will look at that player as well.

Richardson has tremendous upside. His ceiling could be much higher than we imagine, seeing he already tested better in three ways than Cam Newton did.

The Cam Newton comparison might be significant and quite relevant, seeing Rivera drafted and went with Newton during his days of coaching the Carolina Panthers.

Yet, there is this. Rivera is entering the fourth year of a five-year contract. He has won 7,7 and 8 games his first three seasons. If Rivera doesn’t have a winner this upcoming 2023 season, the new owner may determine to go with his own chosen head coach at that time.

Richardson this week is shooting up draft boards, and once everyone calms down and looks again at actual game film of Richardson actually passing the ball in 2022, he most likely will level out and could be available at the No. 16 Washington selection.

However, look for Ron Rivera and the Commanders to pass on Richardson, understandably choosing to draft a player who can best contribute to the 2023 Commanders team.