Brad Childress remembers standing on a practice field at the 2016 Pro Bowl in Honolulu, and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was nearby, talking to another running back.
Peterson pointed out a coach who was hollering instructions at another player at the moment.
“You see that guy right there,” Childress remembers Peterson saying. “That guy right there, he’s the truth.”
That guy was Eric Bieniemy.
The Jets got their chance to find out if Bieniemy is indeed the truth on Wednesday. The Jets search committee, led by CEO Christopher Johnson and general manager Mike Maccagnan, interviewed Bieneimy in Kansas City for their head-coaching opening. He is the first person the Jets are known to have interviewed, and a source said he is a true contender for the job.
Bieniemy is also drawing interest from the Buccaneers, Dolphins and Bengals. He reportedly turned down an interview with the Cardinals.
Bieniemy currently is the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator. Before that he coached the team’s running backs from 2013-17. Childress worked with him in Kansas City, before leaving the Chiefs a year ago, and with the Vikings, where Childress was the head coach and Bieniemy was his running backs coach. That is where Peterson learned about Bieniemy.
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“He was one of my best hires,” Childress said Wednesday. “We took Adrian Peterson. He coached him like he was a red-headed stepchild every single day of his career. You’d have thought the guy was a dog.
“He’s intense. He’s fair, but he demands things of you.”
The 49-year-old Bieniemy was a standout running back at the University of Colorado in the 1990s. Childress first met him in 1999 when he was the Eagles quarterbacks coach and Bieniemy was in his final year as a player.
“The thing that always struck me about him was he’d be out an hour before anybody else because it took him that long to get his smaller body limbered up,” Childress said. “It always struck me as I was pulling up to walk into the locker room and he’s already out there in full pads getting himself lathered up. Wow, this guy goes to this extent.”
He later came back for a coaching internship with the Eagles then began a coaching career in college. Childress hired him away from UCLA in 2006 and recommended him to Reid in 2013 when he was hired in Kansas City.
Bieniemy has become a hot candidate thanks to an explosive Chiefs offense that was No. 1 in yardage and scoring this season with Patrick Mahomes at the helm. The predecessors as offensive coordinator under Reid were Matt Nagy and Doug Pederson, who have both had quick success as head coaches with the Bears and Eagles, respectively.
Is Bieniemy the next one?
“I think Andy’s got him on that track,” Childress said. “We talked as I was walking out the door last year and Matt was walking out the door last year about EB, [Reid asked], ‘Is he ready?’ I said, ‘He’s more than ready.’ I think he’s got all the communication skills. The fact that he played in the league and his stature as a journeyman type of guy. He gets what it takes, the passion for the average guy and yet he knows how to coach the seventh pick in the draft [Peterson], who is undoubtedly a Hall of Famer, as hard as anybody.”
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The knock on Bieniemy will be he does not call the plays in Kansas City. But Nagy and Pederson only did so over a limited time there. Childress said Bieniemy still has a huge role in game-planning.
“[He’s] intimately involved,” Childress said. “Andy installs every play. You have to understand that, but the coordinator is involved in different phases of it throughout the week.”
Mahomes recently told reporters in Kansas City that Bieniemy is ready.
“He’d be an awesome head coach,” Mahomes said. “He has that mindset, that work ethic, and that determination that you need to be a head coach in this league. I know that he’s had the interest and stuff like that … and I’m excited that I still have him right now on this playoff run.”