Colorado football coaching search: Eric Bienemy or bust for Buffs

Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Eric Bieniemy has a great thing going with the Kansas City Chiefs, but his alma mater needs him. Will he become the Colorado Buffaloes’ next head coach?

Eric Bieniemy won’t be an NFL head coach in 2020 but he could be a college football head coach.

After only one year leading the Colorado Buffaloes, Mel Tucker elected to leave Boulder to become Mark Dantonio‘s successor with the Michigan State Spartans. Tucker initially turned down Michigan State. But once when the university upped its offer, he couldn’t turn down the chance to return to East Lansing where he got his start as a football coach.

So this leaves Colorado in an awkward place.

The Buffaloes finished with the No. 35 recruiting class in 2020 that ranked seventh in the Pac-12, the best for the program since joining the league. Though they didn’t make it to a bowl game last year, Colorado was trending up with Tucker. The Pac-12 South is an incredibly winnable division with USC down.

But now, Colorado will be on its third head coach in as many seasons. It wasn’t that long ago when Mike MacIntyre led Colorado to a Pac-12 South title in 2016. It’s not like Colorado is a program bereft of a winning tradition.

So could one of their own be the one to take the program back to championship expectations?

Bieniemy has to be the school’s No. 1 target. He was an All-American in 1990, winning a national title and earning a spot at the Heisman Trophy ceremony as a finalist. Bieniemy is a Mount Rushmore candidate in Colorado football history.

After retiring as a player, Bieniemy’s first coaching gig was at Colorado on Gary Barnett’s staff in 2001 as the running backs coach. He held the job for two years before making a lateral move to the UCLA Bruins. After UCLA, he spent five years with the Minnesota Vikings before returning to Boulder in 2011 as Jon Embree’s offensive coordinator for two years.

Since 2013, Bieniemy has been on Andy Reid‘s staff in Kansas City, climbing up the coaching ranks to offensive coordinator in 2018 after the departure of Todd Peterson and Matt Nagy who got head coaching jobs.

Bieniemy’s ascension to offensive coordinator coincides with Patrick Mahomes‘ meteoric rise to MVP and Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Despite his success working with Mahomes, and despite interviewing for a handful of jobs, Bieniemy hasn’t found an NFL team willing to hire him to be their head coach.

That’s where this gets complicated for Bienemy who could get his first head coaching job at his alma mater or he could pass and gear up for another Super Bowl run and hope he gets an NFL head coaching job in 2021.

Bieniemy is the name and offensive mind that could get Colorado football back to its zenith of the Bill McCartney glory days. Colorado is a special place for him. One could argue he might have more long-term stability at Colorado than taking over a losing NFL franchise in 2021.

But does he want to be in college for the long-term?

What is most important to consider is Bieniemy achieved most of his success as a coach in the NFL. Bienemy didn’t get NFL head coaching opportunities for what he did as a college position coach. Plus, all the NCAA rules and restrictions could make it a less-than-appealing situation for a first-time head coach.

What this comes down to is if Bieniemy wants to cash in his chip as a head football coach at his alma mater in 2020 when NFL opportunities should come his way in 2021.

If he thinks with his heart, he’ll make Colorado football proud again. If he thinks with his brain, he will run it back with the Chiefs before getting his NFL head coach job in 2021.

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