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For Eric Bieniemy, communication breeds accountability in his players

With roster cuts coming, the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator is focused on giving players his best.

NFL: JAN 12 AFC Divisional Playoff - Texans at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This week at Arrowhead Stadium, dreams are on the line — the sort of dreams that every current Kansas City Chiefs player has fought to attain for every day of their lives.

For some — like Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Chris Jones — their dreams are already written in stone. For a few, this week will mark the culmination of years of sweat, dirt and blood.

And for others, this will be the end of the line.

The team must trim its roster to 53 players by 3 p.m. Arrowhead Time on Tuesday. By Wednesday, a lot of good football players will find themselves without a team.

For many of the players scrapping for a roster spot, it may come down to whether or not they can make a handful of plays on Friday night, when the Chiefs play their final preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. A contested catch or a special-teams tackle could make the difference between reaping the dividends of the sweat equity they’ve put into the game — and being on the street, wondering if they could have done a little bit more.

NFL: AUG 14 Preseason - Chiefs at 49ers Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

But offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy doesn’t want to leave any doubt in his players’ minds: he’s not thinking about the construction of the roster.

“That’s the furthest thing from my mind,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “I’m going to leave those discussions up to [head coach] Andy Reid and [general manager] Brett Veach. Let them handle that. I’m [going to] coach these guys up and make sure that they’re ready to play in this preseason game — that way, they can be at their best when their best is expected.”

Bieniemy made this emotionally intelligent remark because he knows that not everybody will make the roster; his job is simply to make sure that he puts them in the best position to make plays and earn a spot.

For Bieniemy, the goal is always to be open and honest with people, letting them know where they stand.

“One thing that we always talk about is the importance of over-communicating,” he said of his offensive line’s performance against the Arizona Cardinals last Friday. “Good, bad or indifferent. As long as the communication is there and everybody’s on the same page, we will always find a way to make it right.”

Bieniemy’s communication style comes from a place of honesty and genuine concern for his players as people — which earns the privilege of being direct with them; they understand his intent is positive.

This way, quotes in the media that might be viewed as calling out a player are simply reiterating something he’s already told them face-to-face. This allows Bieinemy to hold players to a higher standard — because they know what is expected. And as humans, we want to meet the expectations of those we love and respect.

NFL: FEB 02 Super Bowl LIV - Chiefs v 49ers Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So whether your name is Patrick Mahomes or Dalton Schoen, Bieniemy’s message is always the same.

“We expect all of our players to perform at a certain level,” said Bieniemy of the communication issues on the field between Mahomes and wide receiver Mecole Hardman on Friday night. “Now, when it’s all said and done with Pat and Mecole, they will always find a way to work through [it].”

In that statement, Bieniemy did something important: he didn’t let the superstar off the hook. He held his franchise quarterback to the same standard as the wide receiver who is hoping to become a starter — and vice versa. These are the nuances that breed accountability among players.

You could see it on display when both players spoke after the game.

“The first end zone play, I probably just have to throw the ball with a little bit more touch,” observed Mahomes. “I threw a little hard. I tried to really rip it in there, and it was a little too high for him to get both his hands on it.”

“I think I could have caught the one in the corner [of the] endzone,” noted Hardman. “Just some missed miscommunication [between] me and Pat — but that’s why we got to get better… I came out of my break wrong. I could’ve been more squared to jump and get the ball where it was at... you just got to be in a better position.”


So as the team moves towards Tuesday’s moment of decision, players know that their offensive coordinator will give them everything he has. He is going to let them know exactly where they stand. And he’s going to do all of it in a way that lets them know that they are important to him as people.

In the end, isn’t that all any of us can ask for? To be treated like a human — and have someone shoot us straight?