The Lions have cleaned house of their leadership, which could open the door for Eric Bieniemy.
It felt like a fairly obvious move that the Detroit Lions were going to make changes at some point in the near future to their leadership core of general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia. On Saturday, the Lions made it official with word leaking out that both men were fired after being embarrassed by the Houston Texans on Thanksgiving Day.
The Lions hired Patricia before the 2018 season after he’d served several years alongside New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick as his defensive coordinator (among other roles). Patricia played an important role in the team’s overall success, and the Lions were hoping some of the Patriots winning ways would rub off on a franchise that hasn’t been a premiere team in decades.
Instead of starting to develop the next great dynasty or even a contender in the NFC North, the Lions flew south for every winter by winning 6, 3, and 4 games in each of Patricia’s three seasons at the helm. With it clear that another year under Patricia’s leadership (and his staff) was only going to end up with another stay in the divisional basement, the Lions decided to once again change leaders.
From here, the Lions have some decent pieces on both sides of the ball but there’s considerable work to be done on the roster at key positions. From an organizational standpoint, however, the next hire is going to be critical to help establish a new culture in Detroit.
Enter Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. The NFL’s most successful teams are offensively creative and dangerous in the passing game especially. The Chiefs are also the model franchise of the present NFL, a team who is not only winning consistently but doing so with a strong professional culture where players want to play. Head coach Andy Reid strikes the ideal balance of getting strong individual personalities to buy into the mission of the greater good while also allowing them to express themselves. Players are free to be who they want, and they want to be a part of the Chiefs.
These sorts of intangibles are why Bieniemy would be an ideal target for the Lions, especially as they’ve gotten a head start on other teams who might be lining up to talk to the Chiefs O.C. as well. Bieniemy has been the offensive coordinator for every single season with Patrick Mahomes as a starter, and he’s been a close witness to the Chiefs tremendous turnaround from moribund franchise with the first overall selection in the draft to perennial Super Bowl favorites.
Bieniemy is known league-wide as a motivational voice who gets the most out of his players. He’s a favorite of Andy Reid and comes with glowing reviews. While it’s hard to parse exact duties on a Chiefs coaching staff with a lot of overlap, Bieniemy is certainly ready for the challenge of being an NFL head coach.
The idea of Bieniemy spending an offseason getting ready to work with Matt Stafford and an array of weapons like wide receiver Kenny Golladay (assuming he’s extended), tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Jesse James, and running back D’Andre Swift is a good place to start. The Lions will also have more draft picks and cap space with which to retool that offense even further. The defense needs considerable work but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
What is needed is a chance for new leaders to establish the sort of strong working relationship and organizational culture currently at work between Andy Reid and his staff and Brett Veach and the Chiefs front office. Hiring Eric Bieniemy and pairing him with a strong personnel staff—perhaps even someone from K.C. like Mike Borgonzi—could be the very answer for what has ailed Detroit for quite some time.