Colorado Football: Resumes for Bieniemy, Embree and McElwain

Stuart WhitehairAnalyst IDecember 2, 2010

27 Oct 1990: Running Eric Bieniemy of the Colorado Buffaloes runs down the field during a game against the Oklahoma Sooners at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado. Colorado won the game 32-23.
Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

The searching committee for next head coach at  Colorado has narrowed its search down to three candidates. Their resumes are posted, below ...


Resume:  As a Player ... At CU ... Eric Bieniemy's name, 20 years after his last season in Boulder, remains littered throughout the Colorado record book. Bieniemy is Colorado's all-time leading rusher, with 3,940 yards, and all-time leader in all-purpose yards (4,351). Until Mason Crosby came along, "EB" was also the Buffs' all-time leading scorer, with 254 points. Third in the Heisman trophy balloting in 1990, Bieniemy was an All-American, and was a two-time All-Big Eight selection. Even before his senior year, Bieniemy was named to the Colorado All-Century team in 1989 ... In the NFL ... Bieniemy was a second round pick in the 1991 NFL draft, and played 1991 to 1999, suiting up for San Diego, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. In his nine seasons, Bieniemy accumulated 1,589 yards rushing, 1,223 yards receiving, and 1,897 yards returning kicks.

As a coach ... Bieniemy's first collegiate job in coaching came at Colorado, where he coached running backs in 2001 and 2002. Bieniemy moved on to a similar position at UCLA from 2003-05. In his last season, Bieniemy took on the additional titles of recruiting coordinator and rushing game coordinator. In 2006, Bieniemy moved on to the NFL and the Minnesota Vikings, where he has been the running backs coach ever since. In 2010, Bieniemy also assumed the role of assistant head coach for the offense.  At Colorado, Bieniemy was the running backs coach when Chris Brown scored six touchdowns against Nebraska, and Colorado ranked 8th in the nation in rushing. In 2002, Colorado ranked 9th in the nation, with Chris Brown ranked 3rd in the nation individually. While at UCLA, Bieniemy coached Maurice Jones-Drew for three seasons before Jones-Drew went on to become a 2nd-round NFL pick. In his first four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, he has coached a 1,000-yard rusher each season. Adrian Peterson has been an All-Pro three straight seasons, and, in 2007, Minnesota led the NFL in rushing.


- As was the case with Bill McCartney, loyalty to the University of Colorado, and a knowledge of the opportunities and limitations which come with the head job in Boulder, cannot be questioned in Bieniemy. EB still bleeds black-and-gold.

- Motivational skills. Bieniemy was a leader of the 1990 national championship team, and EB is an "in your face" verbal motivator.

- Recruiting skills. Bieniemy hails from La Puente, California, and coached at UCLA. While he has been away from the college game for the past five years, the move by Colorado to the Pac-12 would open any number of doors for the Buffs if Bieniemy were to be named head coach.

- Positive vibe for the school. After a five year drought, the Colorado fan base needs to be restored. Positive energy and positive press would follow Bieniemy back to Boulder.

- Bieniemy has coached some talented players, and has been successful with the running games he had headed.


- This summer, Bieniemy was named assistant head coach for offense at Minnesota. While Bieniemy is unquestionably loyal to the University of Colorado, should he be successful in Boulder, would he turn down an opportunity to return to the NFL?

- Bieniemy has some baggage in returning to Boulder, including his infamous run-ins with Marcus Houston. The top running back recruit in the nation in 2000, Houston had a difficult, controversial, and ultimately short stay at Colorado.

- Bieniemy has never been a head coach at any level; nor has he been a coordinator. Can Bieniemy assemble a staff and deal with the increased pressures of being a head coach?



Resume:  As a Player ... At CU ... Jon Embree was an outstanding player on some poor Colorado teams. Embree was a first-team All-Big Eight tight end in 1984, leading the Buffs in record-setting fashion. Embree caught 51 passes for 680 yards, shattering CU records in both categories. The four-year letterman also led the team in catches in 1985 ... with nine catches. After the Buffs switched to the wishbone, Embree's pass-catching role was reduced considerably, with Embree catching only 17 passes his last two seasons. Still, Embree did enough in his years in Boulder to be drafted in the 6th round by the Los Angeles Rams in 1987 ... In then NFL ... Embree played only two seasons with the Rams before suffering a career-ending elbow injury in 1989.

As a coach ... Jon Embree spent ten years as an assistant coach at the University of Colorado, coaching under Bill McCartney, Rick Neuheisal, and Gary Barnett. While in Boulder, Embree coached tight ends (1993-94; 1999-2000), defensive ends (1995-98), and wide receivers/kickers (2001-2002). Embree moved on to UCLA in 2003, named as assistant head coach/wide receivers (2003), and assistant head coach/tight ends and passing game coordinator (2004-05). While in college, Embree coached two John Mackey Award winners - Daniel Graham at Colorado and Marcedes Lewis at UCLA ... In 2006, Embree was hired as tight end coach by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he coached All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez. Under Embree, Gonzalez led all NFL tight ends with 99 catches for 1,172 yards. After three years with the Chiefs, Embree joined the staff of the Washington Redskins as tight ends coach in January, 2010.


- Again, like McCartney and Bieniemy, Embree would bring an unquestioned loyalty to the Colorado program, and would understand the opportunities/limitations of the head coaching job in Boulder.

- Embree is a Colorado native, going to high school in Denver (Cherry Creek), and committed to play for CU and Bill McCartney in one of the darkest periods of Colorado history. He was a team leader for a team which only had one winning season in his years in Boulder, but he was there on the field for the epic 20-10 win over Nebraska in 1986. He understands what it is like to see CU at the bottom, and what it takes to get Colorado back on top.

- Embree will have a number of recruiting advantages, having ties to both the Denver area, as well as a number of years coaching (and recruiting) for UCLA.

- While best known as a tight ends coach, Embree has had a number of different positions to coach, including wide receivers, defensive ends and kickers. He has also served in the capacity as an assistant head coach while at UCLA.


- While a known quantity for many Buff fans, Embree would not likely be seen as a "home run" hire by the national media. Bieniemy was a star on a national championship team, while Embree toiled in anonymity for a poor to fair Colorado program.

- Without a head coaching background, concerns will be raised about Embree's ability to bring aboard a first-class assistant coaching staff.

- Embree's son, Tyler, is a junior at UCLA. Would Embree want to coach against his son in 2011?



Resume ... Jim McElwain is in his third year of a very successful run as the offensive coordinator at Alabama.

Born in Missoula, Montana, in 1962, McElwain was an all-state quarterback in high school before going on to play football at Eastern Washington. McElwain stayed on as a graduate assistant after graduating in 1983, earning an assistant coach position at Eastern Washington in 1985. In nine seasons in Cheney, McElwain coached quarterbacks and wide receivers, with the Eagles twice earning 1-AA playoff bids. McElwain then moved on to another Big Sky school, Montana State (I knew there was a reason I liked this guy!). The highlight of his four years in Bozeman came in 1998, when the Bobcats led the conference in scoring, with 31.6 points per game.

McElwain's first 1-A coaching job came in 2000, when he was hired as the receivers and special teams coach by Louisville. In his first season, the Cardinals set a school record with nine blocked kicks. After the 2002 season, McElwain was offered the position of assistant head coach at Michigan State, following Louisville head coach John L. Smith to East Lansing. In his three seasons with Michigan State (2003-05), McElwain coached receivers and special teams.

The NFL came calling after the 2005 season, but McElwain's experience with the League was brief. McElwain was the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2006, but, after a 2-14 season, the entire staff of Art Shell, including McElwain, were fired. McElwain then spent one very successful season with Fresno State. There, as offensive coordinator, McElwain helped lead the Bulldogs to a 9-4 record, with Fresno State averaging almost 33 points per game (ranked 32nd in the nation).

On February 1, 2008, McElwain was hired by Nick Saban to be the offensive coordinator for Alabama. In his first season with the Crimson Tide, Alabama went 12-0 in the regular season, and was ranked No. 1 in the country before season-ending losses to Florida in the SEC title game and to Utah in the Sugar Bowl. In 2009, however, Alabama redeemed itself, going undefeated and winning the national championship. In 2009, Alabama was ranked 12th in rushing offense and 22nd in scoring offense, with Mark Ingram winning the Heisman trophy. So far in 2010, Alabama is ranked 30th in rushing offense, 36th in passing offense, 23rd in total offense, and 24th in scoring offense.


- McElwain is from the west, and has recruited in Pac-10 country during his stints at Eastern Washington, Montana State, and Fresno State. Unlike Malzahn, McElwain does not have roots in the SEC, and would be far less likely to leave Colorado for an SEC head coaching position.

- McElwain has seen what it is like to compete at different levels. From humble beginnings with Big Sky Conference teams, McElwain has reached one of the pinnacle of the college football world, Alabama, and has won a national championship and coached a Heisman trophy winner.

- McElwain has coached different positions. He has coached quarterbacks, wide receivers, and special teams on his way to being an offensive coordinator.


- While Alabama did win the national championship in 2009, and McElwain did coach a Heisman trophy candidate, the Crimson Tide wins most of their games with defense. Alabama in 2009 was ranked 92nd in the nation in passing offense - for a 13-0 team. The Alabama defense, at the same time, was ranked in the top ten in nearly every category, and was ranked second in the nation in rushing defense, total defense, and scoring defense. McElwain won't have the Alabama defense to bail him out in Boulder.

- McElwain has never been a head coach at any level.

- While he has coached seven different schools, none of them had any great success until McElwain hit Alabama. It could certainly be argued that McElwain is more of a product of Alabama's success than that Alabama owes its success to McElwain.  

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