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Eric Bieniemy to join UCLA football as offensive coordinator, associate head coach

Eric Bieniemy speaks to the media during his time with the Kansas City Chiefs. Bieniemy won two Super Bowls in Kansas City before becoming the Washington Commanders offensive coordinator last season. (Rich Sugg/file photo, The Kansas City Star)

By Jack Nelson

Feb. 24, 2024 4:27 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 25 at 9:25 p.m.

Former coach Chip Kelly was an NFL reject when he arrived in Westwood, fresh off his second firing in as many head coaching stints.

His play-calling will be replaced by the offensive mind behind a pair of Super Bowl championships.

UCLA football is hiring former Washington Commanders offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Eric Bieniemy as its associate head coach and offensive coordinator on a two-year deal, ESPN senior writer Pete Thamel and senior NFL insider Adam Schefter reported Saturday afternoon. As the first hire by coach DeShaun Foster, Bieniemy will follow in Kelly’s footsteps by jumping from the big leagues to college football and taking charge of the Bruins’ offense.

Bieniemy became one of the league’s most coveted offensive gurus across a decade spent with the Kansas City Chiefs. Starting as a running backs coach from 2013 to 2017, he was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2018 and held the position until departing for the Commanders after the 2022 season.

With the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce executing his scheme, Bieniemy spearheaded the NFL’s No. 1 and No. 6 total offenses in 2022 and 2019, respectively – both en route to lifting the Vince Lombardi trophy. His units also topped the total offense rankings in 2020 and 2018.

Though working for Chiefs wasn’t his first rodeo in the professional ranks – Bieniemy worked as the running backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings from 2006 to 2010 – his coaching tactics in a new place didn’t produce success last season. Washington wound up No. 24 in total offense, but Bieniemy’s absence from Kansas City resulted in the team’s lowest finish in that metric since before he donned the headset.

But all that experience alongside the pros doesn’t make Bieniemy a stranger to the change of scenery – college football and Westwood are both familiar places.

Just like his new boss, Bieniemy is a former running backs coach for UCLA, leading the position group from 2003 to 2005 and taking on recruiting coordinator duties in his final year. His two seasons as a college-level offensive coordinator with Colorado from 2011 to 2012 caught Kansas City coach Andy Reid’s eye.

Now, Bieniemy will oversee an offensive rebirth of a program that has relied on the same scheme for six years.

Kelly – who ran the Bruin offense since taking the reins ahead of the 2018 season – attempted to translate the spread option, up-tempo offense that he mastered at Oregon. But the 46-7 record that offense helped produce in Eugene fell to a 35-34 mark during his Westwood tenure, mostly turning to a pro-style scheme last season.

The Bruins concluded 2023 ranked No. 32 nationally in total offense, following 2022 and 2021 campaigns in which they finished No. 4 and No. 31, respectively.

In his introductory press conference Feb. 13, Foster said he planned to find an offensive coordinator who shared his DNA, and he would let them craft the playbook from there.

Foster’s work is far from done with coaching vacancies remaining at the tight ends, running backs and linebackers positions, but UCLA’s new offensive leader is secured.

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Jack Nelson | Sports senior staff
Nelson is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
Nelson is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
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