KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn doesn’t mince words about his intense feelings toward Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy when the two squared as players in the NFL throughout the 1990s.
“He was a fierce competitor of mine when we played against each other,” Lynn said Thursday as his team prepares to host the Chiefs on Sunday. “I can’t say that I liked him.”
Lynn didn’t like Bieniemy for the same reason why today he considers him a valued friend.
“He is the definition of a competitive prick,” said Lynn, using a phrase Bieniemy himself bestows on players he respects, such as quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The career arcs of Lynn and Bieniemy share many similarities. Both were star running backs in college – Bieniemy a Heisman finalist at Colorado and Lynn all-Southwest Conference at Texas Tech. Both carved out long NFL careers thanks to stellar special teams play and high football-IQ. Both retired after the 1999 season, and that’s when their respective journeys brought them together.
Lynn joined the staff of the Denver Broncos in 2000 as a special teams assistant. Bieniemy moved back to Colorado to complete his degree and joined the Buffaloes coaching staff in 2001.
After all those years of trading blows on the field and allowing their competitive juices to fester a rivalry, the odd couple found themselves as neighbors, and a friendship blossomed. The two men, now both age 51, found they shared more in common than their rivalry and spent plenty of time together around the neighborhood.
“We hated each other when we played against each other, but we ended up being neighbors later on in life, and he’s a very good friend,” Lynn said.
Indeed, today Lynn sees a very different Bieniemy than the one he faced off against on the field.
“He’s matured and grown-up, and he’s just an outstanding coordinator right now,” Lynn said. “Talking with Eric over the years, his communication and leadership is off the charts.”
Lynn also sees a reflection of Bieniemy in the Kansas City offense, a team he believes plays with the intensity Bieniemy delivered as a player.
“You can see it, you can see that grit, you see the toughness in that offense,” Lynn said. “I think he’s a big reason why. Andy helps out and he gets a lot of the credit, but I think Eric Bieniemy is a big reason why they can run the ball the way they run the ball and protect and throw.”
Lynn holds a job that Bieniemy coverts as an NFL head coach. Bieniemy expects to again be a popular candidate in the league’s head coach carousel in 2021, and Lynn gives his friend a hearty endorsement for the same reason he loathed him as a player.
“I would highly recommend Eric,” Lynn said. “If you want a leader of men and someone thats going to people accountable and develop a bunch of competitive pricks, yeah, I’d hire him.”