2 Detroit Lions: ‘Anybody’d be lucky to have’ Kansas City Chiefs’ Eric Bieniemy as head coach

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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When Reggie Ragland lost his starting job early in training camp last season with the Kansas City Chiefs, the current Detroit Lions linebacker set out on a mission every day “to mess up practice for our offense.”

Ragland was angry about his demotion and determined to get his job back, and it did not take long for one Chiefs assistant to let him know he was on his way to doing just that.

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Eric Bieniemy, the Chiefs offensive coordinator, pulled Ragland aside one day and told him, “Reggie, we see you. Keep fighting, your chance is going to come and it’s going to come back to you, and when it comes you’ve just got to be ready.”

“He kept my spirits up and he kept me motivated until I got my time to go out there and play,” Ragland recalled Wednesday. “I appreciate him as a person and as a man. Because he always kept it 100 and kept it real with me. When I was bull(expletive), he told me. When I was doing my thing, he told me like, ‘You doing all right, but keep doing better, keep getting better.’ So I appreciate him as a person and as a coach.”

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Bieniemy is expected to be one of the most in-demand coaches this hiring cycle when NFL teams start turning in permission slips for interviews Sunday.

The Lions, Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons already have head coaching vacancies, and as many as five other jobs could open in the coming days.

It is unclear if Bieniemy will be a fit in Detroit, or even interview here. But if he does, Ragland and another ex-Chief, backup quarterback Chase Daniel, said the Lions will be lucky to land him.

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“He’s one of the realest dudes, straight-forward dudes you’re ever going to meet,” Ragland said. “So he’s a hell of a coach. I can’t say nothing bad about him and I won’t because he’s a great dude and an excellent coach and an excellent person at the end of the day, too. He loved his players, so I respect him a lot.”

Bieniemy, a second-round pick out of Colorado in 1991, played nine NFL seasons for three different teams and has spent the past two decades as a college and NFL assistant.

He emerged as a head coaching candidate two years ago, after replacing current Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy as offensive coordinator, and has helped turn Kansas City into one the best offenses in the NFL.

Patrick Mahomes won an MVP in Bieniemy’s first season as offensive coordinator, and the Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in 50 years last season.

“He’s definitely in line to get (a head coaching job),” Daniel said. “I thought he was going to get a shot last year in the hiring cycle. It’s unfortunate (that he did not), but I think he’ll be awesome. I don’t know what else what he needs to do to prove himself.”

Bieniemy has interviewed for seven jobs the last two years, according to USA Today: with the Bucs, Jets, Dolphins and Bengals in 2019, and the Browns, Giants and Panthers last winter.

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Some have nit-picked his candidacy because he does not call plays in Kansas City — that job falls on head coach Andy Reid — or pointed to past off-field incidents (he was banned from Colorado’s campus in 1993 for harassing a parking lot attendant, and was arrested for a DUI in 2001) as reasons he’s been overlooked.

There also is the race factor. The NFL has done a poor job of hiring and promoting minority coaches throughout its history and especially in recent years. Just three minorities served as full-time coaches this season, and two more were named interim head coaches after early-season firings.

None of that has mattered to players like Ragland and Daniel, though, who swear by Bieniemy and say he will be a successful head coach one day soon.

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“He needs it,” Ragland said. “He’s a hell of a coach, he’s a hell of a person and he’s a hell of a motivator and anybody’d be lucky to have him as a coach.”

“He’s strict but he’s fun,” said Daniel. “He’s a player’s coach and he expects excellence, especially in the offensive position groups, and I can only imagine what that’s going to be like when it takes to the whole team. He’s really good in front of guys. I feel like in this league, like as an NFL head coach, you’ve got to be good in front of the guys. Like, you have to earn their respect, you have to be a leader each and every day, everything you do, and if you’re not authentic, and I think that he is, then guys are going to see right through you. And I think he’s super authentic, so I think he’s a perfect guy for a head job.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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