NEW YORK — The New York Jets kicked off their coaching search by interviewing Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy on Wednesday.

With six vacancies around the league, the 51-year-old Bieniemy is one of the most popular candidates after helping the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes win the Super Bowl last year and directing the NFL’s No. 1 offense this season. Bieniemy also interviewed with Atlanta and Detroit earlier this week.

Teams are speaking to coaching and general manager candidates through virtual interviews rather than in-person visits in early round discussions because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is the second time Bieniemy has interviewed with the Jets, with the first coming in 2019 before they hired Adam Gase. In two years, Gase went 9-23, including a 2-14 season that included a franchise-worst 0-13 start. Gase was fired last Sunday night after New York’s season finale at New England.

General Manager Joe Douglas, who is leading his first coaching search, said Tuesday the team would “cast a very wide net” as it tries to find someone who can help lead the Jets back to respectability. They haven’t made the postseason since 2010, the longest playoff drought in the NFL after Cleveland and Tampa Bay earned berths this season.

Bieniemy is a former running back who played with the Chargers, Bengals and Eagles over nine NFL seasons after being a second-round pick out of Colorado in 1991. He began his coaching career as the Buffaloes’ running backs coach in 2001 before serving in a similar role with UCLA and the Vikings.

Bieniemy returned to his alma mater for two years as Colorado’s offensive coordinator in 2011 before joining Andy Reid’s staff with the Chiefs as the running backs coach. He was promoted to Kansas City’s offensive coordinator in 2018 after Matt Nagy left to become the Bears coach.

GIANTS: While sick of the losing seasons, co-owner John Mara felt the New York Giants established a foundation and culture under rookie coach Joe Judge, giving him optimism the playoffs may not be far away.

Mara added GM Dave Gettleman will be back despite seeing the team win 15 games in his first three years and failing to make the postseason.

“I think what I wanted to see this year was some progress and some reason for some optimism going forward,” Mara said in a 22-minute virtual interview Wednesday. “I did see that. And that’s why I’m optimistic about what we can do in the future.”

The Giants went 6-10 under the recently turned 39-year-old Judge. They had a chance to win the NFC East until Washington (7-9) beat Philadelphia in game where Eagles coach Doug Pederson pulled his starting quarterback with the game on the line.

Mara said he did not reach out to the Eagles for an explanation, noting the only reason the Giants didn’t make the postseason for the first time since 2016 was they didn’t win enough games.

Looking back, Mara was extremely pleased with the job Judge did in a season overshadowed by a pandemic. Despite no offseason team activities and minicamps, a reduced training camp and virtual learning, the former Patriots’ special teams coordinator provided leadership and the adaptability.

While discouraged by the team’s 0-5 start and 1-7 record at the halfway point, Mara was encouraged by the 5-3 finish and attitude of the players. They never quit.

“I went to more team meetings than I ever have in the past, and the players were so attentive and so tuned in to the messages coming from the head coach,” Mara said. “It just seemed like we’re on the right track. Now we just have to prove we’re on the track.”

Turning to Gettleman, Mara said the longtime executive rebounded from personnel miscalculations made in 2018. He noted Gettleman has done a good job the past two seasons, particularly the selection of quarterback Daniel Jones in 2019 with the sixth pick overall. He added Gettleman and Judge worked together well.

Still, Mara wants more wins and the playoffs.

“Quite frankly, I’m tired of sitting up here at the end of the year, trying to explain what went wrong and why I feel optimistic about the future,” he said. “I want to do it after a winning season. And I do believe that we have the right people in the building and locker room than we’ve ever had before.”

There had been some speculation Gettleman was either considering retirement or he might step away because of health concerns. He had cancer two years ago.

“I feel fine. I feel good. I’m excited,” said Gettleman, who will turn 70 next month. “You know, I just want to keep going.”

Gettleman will have a lot of work in the offseason, starting with the draft where the Giants have the 11th pick overall. They need playmakers on offense.

New York also has several free agents with starting defensive linemen Leonard Williams (11 1/2) sacks, run stuffer Dalvin Tomlinson and running back Wayne Gallman all looking for new deals.

The salary cap is expected to dip. It was roughly $197 million last season and Gettleman guessed it might be as low as $175 million because of financial losses sustained in this troubled season where many teams played in empty or near-empty stadiums.

Gettleman has been criticized for averaging five wins and he admitted being disappointed.

“Listen, last time I double-checked, it’s about winning. I’m very disappointed,” he said. “I guess the best thing I can say is – John said in 2018 we didn’t have a stellar year, didn’t have a stellar roster-building season, it’s affected us. We’re on the right track right now. We’re going to fix this. We are going to fix this. ”

Mara said the Giants took a significant financial hit in 2020. He did not say how much the team lost, but it would not affect the team’s ability to be active in the free-agent market.

“We’ll be OK,” Mara said. “We’re not ready to put a padlock on the door just yet. I think we’ll survive just fine. It’s been a tough year from that point of view. But listen, there are people all over this country that are suffering. I’m not out here complaining or anything. We’ll be fine as an organization going forward.”

BROWNS: Coach Kevin Stefanski doesn’t know how he contracted COVID-19, and he’s not going to let the virus stop him from preparing his team for the playoffs.

Beating the Pittsburgh Steelers is priority No. 1.

“We’ve got to find a way,” Stefanski said.

Cleveland’s first-year coach, who has guided the Browns back to the postseason for the first time since the 2002 season, met with reporters over Zoom on Wednesday, a day after his positive test for COVID-19.

Stefanski won’t be able to coach the Browns on Sunday, and the team will also be without Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio and at least two other assistant coaches. Cleveland has nine rotational players and five coaches currently on the COVID-19 list, but some may be back in time for the game.

Not Stefanski, who can only work virtually with his team this week.

The 38-year-old said he feels fine and said that his young family is also healthy. Stefanski expressed disappointment and frustration that he won’t be able to join his team at Heinz Field on Sunday night for the wild-card game.

But Stefanski, who has juggled distractions attached with the pandemic for months, remained confident the Browns will be ready.

“Disappointing for any of the guys that can’t be involved in this,” he said. “We had a team meeting yesterday just to reassure them that we’ve got a job to do. We’ll make sure we keep everybody is safe first and foremost and then we’ll get back to work and put a plan together to go on the road against a really good football team.

“Really pretty simple.”

The Browns did not have any new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, but the team’s training facility in Berea, Ohio, remains closed as contact tracing continues.

So instead of practicing on the field for the Steelers, the Browns are holding a virtual walk-through – not ideal, but not too different in this unique season.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who previously worked with Stefanski in Minnesota, will serve as Cleveland’s acting head coach. Stefanski said Priefer was an easy choice.

“With Coach Priefer, it always makes sense, the special teams coordinator deals with everybody on the team, coaches every player,” he said. “So I think it’s a very natural place to go in an interim setting there where he can not miss a beat, and then you let the offensive and defensive coaches focus on their side of the ball.

“So, ton of confidence in Coach Priefer, he knows this team very, very well from a roster standpoint, also based on how we play. So I have a full amount of confidence in him.”

DOLPHINS: Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey has resigned one season after coming out of retirement.

The announcement was made one day after Gailey’s 69th birthday and one day after Coach Brian Flores said he expected all of his assistant coaches would return in 2021.

With Gailey calling plays, the Dolphins scored 404 points, their highest total since 1986. He had a major role in the development of rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who struggled at times but went 6-3 as a starter.

The Dolphins finished 10-6 with one of the NFL’s youngest teams. A blowout loss Sunday at Buffalo kept them out of the playoffs.

BILLS: Testing is replacing tailgating in the Bills Stadium parking lot, with a limited number of fans being allowed to attend Buffalo’s wild-card playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday.

Before that can happen, New York state guidelines require the approximate 6,700 fans, plus 200 employees and members of the media, first test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of kickoff. Each person must show his or her ID and proof of a negative test before being allowed in the outdoor facility, which seats about 70,000.

The tests will be held Wednesday and Thursday and conducted by New Jersey-based BioReference Laboratories.

FALCONS: The Atlanta Falcons conducted a virtual interview for general manager with New Orleans Saints executive Terry Fontenot.

The Falcons are seeking a permanent replacement for longtime GM Thomas Dimitroff, who was fired along with Coach Dan Quinn after the team began the season with five straight losses.

Fontenot is the Saints’ vice president and assistant general manager in charge of pro personnel. He has been with Atlanta’s NFC South rival for 16 seasons.

Fontenot was the fifth candidate to interview for the GM job.

The Falcons previously met with former Houston Texans GM Rick Smith, Atlanta director of college scouting Anthony Robinson, and two other directors of college scouting, Brad Holmes of the Los Angeles Rams and Morocco Brown of the Indianapolis Colts.

Atlanta has interviewed three candidates for its head coaching position after completing a 4-12 season.

Comments are not available on this story.