Mike Preston’s observations on Eric Bieniemy’s coaching candidacy, Ravens' offensive woes and more | COMMENTARY
NFL teams are running out of excuses to hire Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy as a head coach. If it doesn’t happen by the start of next season, the league should just issue a statement and say it’s because Bieniemy is Black.
There can’t be any other reason.
Bieniemy, 51, and the Chiefs came to Baltimore on Monday night and beat the Ravens, 34-20. If football fans around the country weren’t impressed with Kansas City’s show-time offense last year, it’s even better now.
Bieniemy, using a variety of formations, motion and trick plays, took the Ravens apart, as the Chiefs rolled up 517 yards of total offense. Some great quarterbacks have ripped up the Ravens through the years, such as Tom Brady and Brett Favre, but no one has beat them like the Patrick Mahomes.
There are some who say that Bieniemy has been blessed with a load of talent, such as Mahomes, receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, or that Bieniemy is only second in command of the offense behind coach Andy Reid.
That’s a misconception.
That logic didn’t make sense in Minnesota in the early to mid-1990 1/4 u2032s when Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick was running coach Dennis Green’s high-powered offense. Billick later became the Ravens coach for the start of the 1999 season.
Before Bieniemy was named offensive coordinator in 2018 with the Chiefs, both of his predecessors became coaches: Matt Nagy with the Chicago Bears and Doug Pederson with the Philadelphia Eagles. Neither had as much input in the game planning or play-calling as Bieniemy.
In the past couple of years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the New York Jets have hired coaches. Bieniemy reportedly was interviewed by the Panthers, Browns and Giants last offseason.
Sometimes when a candidate isn’t hired, other teams back off, or at least that’s a popular theory. But in a league in which 70% percent of the players are Black, and there are only three Black head coaches, there is another reason: it’s Bieniemy’s skin color.
Reid thinks he will get hired as a coach soon.
“He is my right-hand man. He is fully in charge and has a great feel for everything we do,” Reid said. “Listen, he was one of my players, and I am proud as can be of him. Now that I have the chance to coach with him, you know I was dreading having to possibly lose him last year, but he is back. From my standpoint, kind of selfishly, but I know he’s not going to be here very long, but I am going to enjoy every minute I have a chance to spend with him.”
More big plays needed
After every Ravens playoff defeat or loss to Kansas City, there are always fans who complain that quarterback Lamar Jackson doesn’t have enough quality receivers, which is why he struggles in big games.
That’s true to some degree, but Jackson also falters because of his own limitations. Against the Chiefs, there were few deep pass attempts by the Ravens despite the presence of speedy receivers Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Devin Duvernay.
It’s safe to conclude that the coaching staff doesn’t have enough confidence in either Jackson’s arm strength or his accuracy, or both. This is a recurring theme, not something that just happened Monday night. Opposing teams are taking away the short or intermediate routes in the middle of the field, which is where Jackson throws most of his passes.
As for the receivers, they need to contribute more big plays in big games. Once Brown got crushed on a pass across the middle in the first half against the Chiefs, he virtually disappeared.
We’ve seen that before, not with just Brown, but with tight end Mark Andrews, who dropped several passes Monday night. Remember, near the end of last season, Andrews had quite a few drops, including one that led to an interception in the playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Great players make great plays in big games.
“A lot of those plays are plays that we’ll make a lot of times. Sometimes that’s the difference,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “You make a couple plays, and all of a sudden, things open up, and you’re able to run the ball more. Those are the kinds of things that ‘spark’ you, and we just really didn’t get the ‘spark’ in this game.”
Trash-talking tight end
I heard Kelce, the Chiefs tight end, was doing a lot of talking out on the field.
He has the right. Kelce, perhaps the best tight end in the game, has been a Ravens killer in the past three regular-season meetings between the clubs. He caught six passes for 87 yards Monday night, including one for 29 yards.
After a couple of catches, Kelce was laughing and taunting the Ravens for trying to play the Chiefs in man-to-man coverage.
If the Ravens had played zone, that wouldn’t have mattered either. Mahomes was in his own zone.
Get Gus the Bus rolling
There are some who believe that the Ravens got away from their strong running game too early in the loss to Kansas City, but the bottom line was that they couldn’t stop the Chiefs offense.
As far as the running game is concerned, here is a suggestion: the Ravens should hand the ball to Gus Edwards more often.
Starting running back Mark Ingram II leads the Ravens in carries with 26 for 114 yards, but Edwards has 129 rushing yards on just 18 carries. The plan appears to be for rookie J.K. Dobbins to eventually replace Ingram as the starter, but every time Edwards gets in, he gives the offense a spark. It happened in the third quarter against Houston and then versus Kansas City.
He might not be flashy or be able to catch passes out of the backfield like Dobbins, but his straight-ahead and off-tackle running style seems to ignite the offensive line.
At the beginning of the year, Harbaugh said he was going to go with the hot player. Edwards has earned and deserves more playing time.
Where’s the pass rush?
Much was expected from Ravens outside linebacker Matthew Judon this season after he signed his franchise tag this summer, which will pay him nearly $17 million this season, but that was fantasy league dreams.
Judon, 28, led the Ravens in sacks last season with 9 1/4 u00bd and earned his first Pro Bowl selection, but he has never been a standout performer. He has been steady throughout his five seasons in Baltimore, but he is not the kind of player who can take over a game the way former Ravens outside linebackers Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs did.
But the Ravens, in need of a pass rusher, couldn’t allow Judon to hit the free-agent market, so they paid the big one-year contract. So far, Judon has eight total tackles, including three solo, but no sacks.
The defensive coaches are telling him to keep working, and that sacks come in bunches, but the Ravens are in dire need of a pass rusher. Harbaugh said they had no free agents in mind, such as former Green Bay Packers star Clay Matthews, to bring in at this point.
“I haven’t been given a name or an option on that,” Harbaugh said about possible free agents. “I haven’t heard anything about that at this point, no. I’m sure if something comes up along those lines, I’m sure [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] will let me know.”
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