Eric Bieniemy and Sam Howell haven’t been together long, but there is already a sense of trust between the Washington Commanders offensive coordinator and quarterback.
Bieniemy praised Washington’s young quarterback throughout the offseason. But many wondered if it was just words of support for a young quarterback, while he remained skeptical.
In the preseason, Howell showed promise. But it’s the preseason. In the first two weeks of the NFL season, Howell played a starring role in wins over the Cardinals and Broncos. But it was the Cardinals and Broncos, they said.
It seems like the former fifth-round pick is constantly needing to show more for outsiders to believe in him. Howell isn’t trying to impress outsiders. Washington coaches believe in him. And Howell’s teammates believe in him.
For any successful QB/OC tandem, trust is essential. And while Bieniemy and Howell are still getting to know one another, the offensive coordinator spoke Thursday of giving Howell ownership in the offense.
“Well, let me just say this, first and foremost, I learned a long time ago, learned this as a player, and I’ve learned it as a coach,” Bieniemy said.
“If players like certain things, guess what? They’re gonna try their best to make it work. So, as a coach, you always want to give your quarterback that opportunity to have a ranking in certain situations. That way, now you’re giving him the green light to take ownership in what we’re doing.”
This was good stuff from Bieniemy, who explained how he learned a lot from his mentor, Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
And if you listen — or read — closely to this from Bieniemy and listen to Howell after a game, it’s clear he understands the messaging.
With Sam taking ownership with that, it forces him to take ownership, but also, too, it puts that ownership on the players as well,” Bieniemy said.
“So, I’ve been accustomed to learning a lot from Coach Reid. This is something that I’ve learned from him as a coach, and it’s a great deal and a great sense of ownership that you’re giving to your quarterback, so I love it. I like the idea that when we come to the sideline when things don’t go right, he could tell you exactly what happened, or he can tell you, ‘Hey, you know what? I should have did this, or I should have did that. Well, hey, they didn’t give us the coverage, the exact coverage, but this should have happened.’ So, I love the fact that he has that ownership.”
In each of Washington’s two wins, Howell wasn’t celebrating his scoring plays; he was instead focusing on how he took too many sacks. That’s a trait you can’t teach all young quarterbacks, and Bieniemy says it shows that Howell is a coach’s son.
“Sam’s a very mature kid,” Bieniemy said. “I mean, obviously, his dad is a coach, and Sam is very honest. He’s very quiet in a sense, but he has a calm demeanor, but he’s confident.”
Howell and Bieniemy have a major test on Sunday when they face the Buffalo Bills. Bieniemy has had his share of success from his time in Kansas City against the Bills, but this will be the biggest challenge of Howell’s young career thus far.