Former Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is finalizing a two-year deal to join UCLA's staff as the Bruins' associate head coach/offensive coordinator, sources told ESPN on Saturday night.
The move marks a significant hire for new UCLA coach DeShaun Foster, who intends to forge an NFL identity with the Bruins. It also marks a homecoming for Bieniemy, who grew up in the area and was a Bruins assistant from 2003-05.
"Southern California," Bieniemy wrote in an email Saturday. "I attended high school there. I started my career in the league here [with the Chargers]. It's obviously great to be back with the Bruins, where I was previously employed."
Bieniemy had opportunities to remain in the NFL. He interviewed for the Commanders' head-coaching job, and two other offensive coordinator jobs. Bieniemy said one NFL team offered him its assistant head coach/running backs job. But ultimately, he took his time and found his way back to school.
"I have had countless conversations and interviews with many teams, and I have been applauded and lauded," Bieniemy wrote. "I can't say why certain decisions were or were not made but it had nothing to [do] with a lack of anything on my end.
"My self-dignity, worth, integrity, personhood, manhood will never be questioned or compromised. It is not always about money, either. With everything in life, it is often all about timing. At this time in my life, the opportunity affords me the pleasure of continuing to be a maker and leader of men, to do what I love, follow my passion and my dreams while not compromising on who I am as a man."
It will be Bieniemy's first college job since working as Colorado's offensive coordinator from 2011 to 2012. Foster prioritized hiring a coach with Bieniemy's experience -- and Bieniemy was equally as excited about trying to help UCLA's rookie head coach.
For Foster, who is entering his first season as a head coach, the hire is a crucial one. Foster does not have coordinator experience. By bringing in someone with Bieniemy's breadth of experience, he has begun to set the vision of what UCLA will look like on that side of the ball. Former head coach Chip Kelly served as UCLA's offensive playcaller in recent seasons.
"This is a great opportunity for me to help support DeShaun as a head coach, to work with him and to work for him as well," Bieniemy wrote. "My goal is to help him to be a successful head coach in our profession.
"It's an opportunity for my family and I to return back to a place that we once called home."
Bieniemy brings 16 years of NFL experience to the Bruins. Bieniemy spent the 2023 season as the Commanders' offensive coordinator and won two Super Bowls as the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive coordinator, a role he held from 2018 to 2022.
As a coach who went to five straight conference championship games that included three Super Bowl appearances in that span, Bieniemy believes he brings a lot to the Bruins that can translate on the recruiting trail.
"My goal is to help generate some excitement for potential student-athletes to consider attending UCLA as we collectively prepare for the move to the Big Ten Conference in recruiting," he wrote.
There have been other coaches who have gone from the NFL back to college and succeeded. Bieniemy pointed out that Nick Saban, Jim Harbaugh, Bill O'Brien and Kliff Kingsbury did it. Now he is doing the same, leaving the NFL and going back to school, with an eye of conquering his new world.
"I have no regrets with the Commanders," Bieniemy wrote. "Contrary to what some think and what has been put out in the media, I was not fired. I actually just chose not to stay. Learned a lot and that is always a good thing.
"I will continue my walk in my peace. I'm excited to be here and to coach these young men and football again. My expectations and desire to be excellent will never be turned down. I'm fired up. Let's go."