This week at Arrowhead Stadium, dreams are on the line – the kind of dreams every current Kansas City Chiefs player has fought for every day of their life.
For some, like Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Chris Jones, their dreams are already set in stone. For a few, this week will mark the culmination of years of sweat, dirt and blood.
And for others, it will be the end of the line.
The team are due to reduce their roster to 53 players by 3 p.m. Arrowhead time on Tuesday. By Wednesday, many good footballers will find themselves without a team.
For many players looking for a spot on the roster, it may depend on whether or not they can make a handful of plays on Friday night, when the Chiefs play their last preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. A contested take or a special teams tackle could be the difference between reaping the dividends from the sweat they put in the game – and being out on the streets, wondering if they could have done a little more.
But the offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy does not want to leave any doubt in the minds of his players: he does not think about the construction of the roster.
“It’s the furthest thing from my mind,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “I will leave these discussions to [head coach] Andy Reid and [general manager] Brett Veach. Let them take care of it. I am [going to] train these guys and make sure they’re ready to play in this preseason game – that way they can be at their best when they’re expected.
Bieniemy made the emotionally intelligent point because he knows not everyone will be on the list; his job is just to make sure he puts them in the best position to make plays and earn a spot.
For Bieniemy, the goal is always to be open and honest with people, to let them know where they are at.
“One thing we always talk about is the importance of communicating too much,” he said of his offensive line performance against the Arizona Cardinals last Friday. “Good, bad or indifferent. As long as the communication is there and everyone is on the same page, we’ll always find a way to get it right.
Bieniemy’s style of communication comes from a place of honesty and genuine concern for his players as people – which earns him the privilege of being direct with them; they understand that his intention is positive.
That way, quotes in the media that could be seen as calling out a player only reiterate something they’ve already told them face to face. This allows Bieinemy to keep players at a higher level – because they know what is expected. And as humans, we want to meet the expectations of those we love and respect.
Whether your name is Patrick Mahomes or Dalton Schoen, Bieniemy’s message is always the same.
“We expect all of our players to perform at a certain level,” Bieniemy said of the on-field communication issues between Mahomes and wide receiver Mecole Hardman on Friday night. “Now, when all is said and done with Pat and Mecole, they will always find a way to overcome [it]. “
In that statement, Bieniemy did something important: He didn’t let the superstar get away with it. He’s kept his franchise quarterback on par with the wide receiver who hopes to become a starter – and vice versa. It is the nuances that engender responsibility among the players.
You could see it on screen when both players were talking after the game.
“The first play in the end zone, I probably just have to throw the ball with a little more touch,” observed Mahomes. “I threw a little hard. I really tried to tear it up in there, and it was a little too high for him to get both hands on it.
“I think I could have caught the one in the corner [of the] endzone, ”noted Hardman. “Just a lack of missed communication [between] me and Pat – but that’s why we need to get better… I got off my break badly. I could have been more square to jump and put the ball where it was … you just gotta be in a better position.
As the team heads towards Tuesday’s decision time, the players know their offensive coordinator will give them all they have. He’s going to let them know exactly where they are. And he’s going to do it all in a way that lets them know that they are important to him as people.
In the end, isn’t that all each of us can ask for? Being treated like a human – and someone shoot us?