When the Washington Commanders hired Eric Bieniemy to run their offense, everyone knew what might happen if things went bad for the team this season.
Head coach Ron Rivera had yet to post a winning season with the Commanders heading into his fourth season. Washington had new ownership, and usually new ownership groups want their own coach. Bieniemy has been looking for a shot to be a head coach for a while. It wasn’t happening with the Kansas City Chiefs but there was a scenario in which Rivera would get fired and Bieniemy would get promoted.
It’s time for Washington to give Bieniemy his long-awaited chance the rest of the season. An utterly embarrassing 31-19 loss to the New York Giants should be it for Rivera in Washington. Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito, who looked miserable as an NFL quarterback before Sunday, carved up the Commanders on Sunday. He had three touchdown passes and no interceptions. It’s not Rivera’s fault the Commanders traded away pass rushers Montez Sweat and Chase Young, but it’s also looking like Rivera won’t be back for his fifth season. Washington is 4-7 after the home loss to a Giants team that had just two wins before Sunday.
Like a team giving a rookie quarterback a shot so it can tell if it needs to draft another QB in the offseason, the Commanders have enough time to figure out if Bieniemy has any promise as a head coach.
Sunday’s game wasn’t great for Bieniemy’s offense either, with way too many turnovers. The Commanders had a shot at the win but Howell threw a pick-six under pressure with 16 seconds left and that ended Washington’s chances to pull out a win. That was one of six Commanders turnovers. But overall this season, Howell’s development has been impressive. Howell led the NFL in passing yards before Sunday’s games, and he had cut down on the sacks he’d taken as well as his turnovers. That reflected well on Bieniemy.
Bieniemy was the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs but couldn’t get a look as a head coach. It was viewed as an Andy Reid offense that was run by the incomparable Patrick Mahomes. Bieniemy needed to go a different route to get a head coaching shot. Going to Washington was risky, but also shrewd. Everyone knew that Rivera was on the hot seat. Bieniemy doing a good job running the offense but Washington being bad enough to potentially fire Rivera was a narrow runway to land on, but that’s practically what has happened. Bieniemy has been an intriguing candidate for a while. Washington can give him an audition and not ruin its season — because it’s already wrecked.
Maybe Bieniemy won’t work out, but he has enough time left in the season to give Washington a clear idea of what he can be as a head coach. Rivera has had plenty of success as a head coach, but it’s probably time for Washington to try something else. And it’s time for Bieniemy to show what he can do.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 11 of the NFL season:
C.J. Stroud, despite his worst day: The most impressive thing about Stroud’s rookie season before Sunday was that he never seemed to make mistakes. He had thrown only two interceptions.
The rookie mistakes finally came Sunday. But the Houston Texans overcame them.
Stroud threw three interceptions against the Arizona Cardinals. But he also threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns and the Texans won 21-16. Not great for Stroud’s MVP argument, but good for the Texans’ playoff chances.
The Texans are 6-4 after the win. They held on late after Stroud threw his third interception, but the Texans forced a turnover on downs in their own territory.
Stroud wasn’t going to go through the whole season without a bad interception day. Having it come in a win takes away the sting.
The Packers owe a big assist to Chargers rookie receiver Quentin Johnston, a first-round disappointment to date who dropped a long catch that would have put Los Angeles in field-goal range in the final minutes. The Packers will take it. They were giving Love a chance to solidify himself in the team’s future plans over the last half of the season, and Sunday was a good sign for him.
Jared Goff: Hedidn’t play well, but he did enough at the end to lead the Detroit Lions to a win. That’s all anyone will remember from Sunday’s game.
Goff threw three interceptions and it looked like the Lions would blow a home game to the Chicago Bears. But the Lions scored late, Justin Fields barely missed a deep third-down pass that would have put the game away and Goff led a game-winning drive in the final minute. The Lions added on a safety and won 31-26. Their chances of getting the No. 1 seed in the NFC are still alive, whereas a loss to the Bears would probably have ruined that dream.
It says something about the 2023 Lions that they can overcome a three-interception game from their quarterback. Goff will have to play better, but he played well enough in the fourth quarter to avoid a lot of criticism.
The Raiders (5-6) lost 20-13, and while it’s not the result the Raiders wanted, it wasn’t a bad day for their interim head coach. The Raiders have looked like a new team since Pierce took over for fired Josh McDaniels. The Raiders had plenty of chances to at least tie the Dolphins in the fourth quarter, but the offense with rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell couldn’t get it done against one of the best teams in the NFL. It happens.
Pierce continues to look like a viable option as the permanent coach. The loss to the Dolphins (7-3) won’t hurt his chances.
Will Levis: Hey, remember when Levis threw four touchdowns in his first start?
The Tennessee Titans committed to Levis being their starter not long after he threw four TDs in his debut, even when Ryan Tannehill was ready to return from an ankle injury. And that was the right call, to get the second-round rookie a long look. But it hasn’t looked that good since Levis’ first game.
Maybe Tepper will understand that Reich took over a bad team with a rookie quarterback in Young, and he might not deserve to be one-and-done. But that’s not his usual approach.
Kenny Pickett and the Pittsburgh Steelers offense: The Steelers have resisted making a change at offensive coordinator, where Matt Canada is the target of many unhappy fans. Those fans will be even louder after Sunday.
The Steelers were horrendous on offense and lost 13-10 to a Cleveland Browns team that also had trouble moving the ball with rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback. Cleveland put together one late drive and won on a field goal in the final seconds. Pickett had just 106 passing yards.
The Steelers were lucky to be 6-3 before Sunday’s game. They had been outgained in every game. They have been finding ways to win but couldn’t overcome a terrible offensive performance Sunday. That will lead to more questions about Canada and his job security, and it’s not great for Pickett and his future either.