Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the best QB of his generation. Of all the coaches Mahomes has had throughout his football career, he credits Eric Bieniemy – who served as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator from 2018-2022 and is in the process of finalizing a deal to become UCLA’s offensive coordinator – with much of his success.

“EB is going to be harsh on you,” Mahomes said last August. “He’s going to really try and get the best out of you every single day. He’s going to hold you accountable when you don’t want to hold yourself accountable.[His coaching] made me a better player.

“There’s a reason why he’s coaching you the way he’s coaching you – he loves you,” insisted Mahomes. “He loves every guy that he coaches. You can see that [from] all the guys that have come out and said stuff about him: Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Tyreek [Hill] — they understand that he loves you, and he’s going to try to get the best out of you every single day.”

That — right there, just above — is where I prefer to start any conversation around Bieniemy, especially surrounding his decision to leave the NFL, return close to home and lead DeShaun Foster’s Bruins into battle in the Big Ten. And while the conversation around the 54-year-old Bieniemy this fall will almost exclusively be result-driven, it’s important to note that he’s in rare air, having won both a national championship as a player and multiple Super Bowls as a coordinator.

Bieniemy was a standout running back during his four-year collegiate career at the University of Colorado. He was a first-team All-American selection in 1990, helping guide the Buffaloes to a national championship. He went on to enjoy a nine-year NFL career, where he played for the Chargers, Bengals and Eagles. So, it’s fitting that one of the best running backs in UCLA history, Foster, hired the 1990 Big 8 Offensive Player of the Year and 1,600-yard rusher to run his offense.

Following his playing days, Bieniemy had coaching stops in both college and the NFL, including a stint as the Bruins’ running backs coach from 2003-05.  All of this, of course, came before he was named the OC in Kansas City in 2018 and helped Andy Reid transform Mahomes from a talented QB at Texas Tech to the face of the most popular sport in the United States. 

Bieniemy’s ascent in coaching appeared to mirror Mahomes’ upward trajectory in Kansas City. And after the Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles to win their second Super Bowl in three years, Bieniemy was thought to be on a list of coordinators — let alone Black coordinators — expected to become head coaches in the NFL. The fact that he didn’t get offered a head coaching opportunity was a letdown, but one he’d grown used to experiencing.

Bieniemy has been interviewed for countless NFL head-coaching jobs, he’s had numerous conversations with front office folks about what a team led by him might play like. When he decided to accept the offensive coordinator position for the Washington Commanders ahead of the 2023 NFL season, there was no way to shrug off the reality that he was leaving Reid’s shadow. But the season ended with the Commanders going 4-13, head coach Ron Rivera getting fired, and Bieniemy without a job as a playcaller in the NFL.

Rather than accepting a job as a position coach, Bieniemy chose to offer his expertise to a former running backs coach, and a first-time head coach, tasked with building a staff capable of recruiting and competing in one of the most competitive leagues in the sport.

UCLA hires Eric Bieniemy as its new offensive coordinator

Foster, beloved by players and alumni, hired someone who was not only a decorated coordinator in the NFL, but a former high school star in Los Angeles County. Whether Bieniemy can recruit at a high level remains to be seen, and current Bruins quarterbacks Collin Schlee and Ethan Garbers are not Mahomes, but that misses the point.

Mahomes didn’t become a Super Bowl champion until Reid promoted Bieniemy after now-Chiefs coordinator Matt Nagy left to become head coach in Chicago. And Mahomes believes he has developed into the player he is today – a three-time Super Bowl champion and two-time NFL MVP – in large part due to Bieniemy.

That’s the new offensive coordinator in Westwood. And when you speak of him, start there.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.

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