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Bieniemy latest Chiefs assistant on path toward top job

(AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

By DAVE SKRETTA

AP Sports Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Doug Pederson went through this grind a few years ago, juggling the demands of his primary job as the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs with overtures from NFL teams elsewhere.

Matt Nagy went through the same process last winter.

Now, Eric Bieniemy is getting his turn.

The latest hot commodity for NFL head coaching jobs, Bieniemy spent the Chiefs' bye week speaking with representatives from the Dolphins, Bengals, Buccaneers and Jets while turning down an opportunity to interview with Arizona.

The Bucs wound up choosing Bruce Arians, but the other jobs remain open even as Bieniemy prepares the Chiefs to face the Indianapolis Colts in Saturday's divisional round.

Bieniemy declined to go into details about the interviews Wednesday, preferring to focus entirely on the only certainty in his professional life.

But when asked about his latest sought-after assistant, Chiefs coach Andy Reid seemed resigned to the possibility of losing him.

"I think you guys know I am a big fan of his," Reid said. "I think he would be phenomenal."

So does just about everyone in the Chiefs locker room.

Even though he played running back in college and the NFL, the affable and outspoken Bieniemy has been a crucial player in the development of first-year starter Patrick Mahomes . He has taken an offense that was good with Alex Smith under center and turned it into a record-setting group, one that hardly missed a beat with reigning NFL rushing champ Kareem Hunt was released midway through the season.

He turned journeymen such as running backs Spencer Ware and Damien Williams into crucial players, and elevated stars such as wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce to another level.

All told, the Chiefs scored 565 points this season, the third most in NFL history.

"He has that mindset, work ethic and determination you need to be a head coach in this league," Mahomes said. "I know he's had the interest, but you know he will still be 100 percent in on what we are doing here. He would be an amazing coach, but I'm excited I still have him here right now."

Many of those traits are the same ones that catapulted Pederson and Nagy to head coaching jobs.

Pederson parlayed his success under Reid into the top job in Philadelphia, where he once played quarterback for him. He wound up leading a team featuring backup quarterback Nick Foles to a Super Bowl title, and now has them back in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Nagy inherited a struggling Chicago Bears franchise and went 12-4 and won the NFC North, and was a double-doinked field goal away from joining Reid in the divisional round.

Those are just the latest branches in Reid's impressive coaching tree, too.

John Harbaugh led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl triumph, and rebounded from an ugly start to return to the playoffs this year. Ron Rivera has a Super Bowl appearance with the Carolina Panthers, while Steve Spagnuolo, Todd Bowles and Sean McDermott have had varying levels of success.

"Who you start with really makes a big difference," Harbaugh said. "If you start with people that do it the right way - good people, teach you the right things - it gives you a chance, gives you a leg up. And Andy, for me, was a big part of that in every way."

Bieniemy has spoken numerous times about the opportunities that Reid has afforded him. Bieniemy was serving as offensive coordinator of Colorado, his alma mater, when Reid plucked him away to coach his running backs in Kansas City. And once Pederson and Nagy moved on to bigger things, Bieniemy was the easy choice for Reid to make his third offensive coordinator in four years.

He's proven himself just as creative as his predecessors, too, coming up with unique ways to use exotic formations. But his demeanor is far different. Pederson and Nagy were generally low-key, while Bieniemy's voice can be heard quite clearly across three practice fields.

Yet that unbridled intensity only seems to engender more devotion from his players.

"He's very detailed and he pays attention to everything," Ware said. "If you take a look at his resume and the players he's coached, and the way they play football, each and every play they get out there on the field. Having an entire offense with that same mentality is pretty exciting."

It's been pretty productive, too.

Notes: Shortstop Eric Berry (heel) did not practice Wednesday after working out on a limited basis the previous day. He missed the regular-season finale after spending the previous few weeks getting up to game speed. ... OLB Dorian O'Daniel (foot/ankle) also did not practice Wednesday.

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Updated January 9, 2019

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