I really like Mike Zimmer. I mean, how do you not? In the five seasons before he came to Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis' defenses never ranked higher than 19th, and ranked 27th or worse during the other four seasons. Zimmer comes into town, curses a lot, puts together simplistic goals of rushing the quarterback and stopping the run and he only put together rankings of 12th (2008) and 4th (2009). If that doesn't give a coach love, nothing will.
At the same time, I caution the belief that Zimmer would be a great head coach if the Bengals can't convince Marvin Lewis to sign beyond the 2010 season. Even though he's the most logical choice on the succession ladder, there's no guarantee that Zimmer will improve Lewis' product and not become the next Dick LeBeau -- one of the great defensive minds in NFL history didn't do so well as a head coach for Mike Brown. And if Zimmer becomes a head coach, does that mean he'll have to go through a five-year search like Lewis did to find a defensive coordinator that fits, or will he keep total control of the defense? Head coaches have vastly more responsibility to a team than a defensive coordinator. At the same time, I'm not saying he couldn't do it; just that it should be a cautious thought. And yes, he very well could thrive (we just don't know).
Therefore, I would make the argument that signing Lewis is the team's biggest offseason priority. Maybe at this point in the negotiations process, the Bengals want to see a playoff win first. That's it. Playoff win. This team radically addressed needs during the offseason, have strong personnel at nearly every position in a division where no other team really blew you away with their own moves -- maybe the Baltimore Ravens were close. Is Lewis on the hot seat? Hell no. That's not the point. The question is, if the Bengals miss the playoffs or don't win a playoff game this year, with the team they have now, will the Bengals elect to find someone else that takes them to the next level allowing Lewis to leave with an expired contract?
While I could see the point, it wouldn't explain the multiple failures the team has had trying to get Lewis signed during the season last year and earlier this offseason, which would indicate no, the team isn't on that level of wait-and-see. They want Lewis signed. Lewis, reportedly, wants some things changed. The Bengals would be smart to keep working on Lewis, adjusting their positions to accommodate a head coach that:
- Has the only winning record as a Bengals head coach in franchise history with 100 games or more coached (Forest Gregg had a .561 winning percentage but coached 57 games).
- Five wins away from tying Sam Wyche as the winningest coach in franchise history with 61 wins. And most likely, Lewis will reach 61 sooner than Wyche did, who needed all 127 games to do it.
In a perfect world, the Bengals sign Lewis long-term and keep Zimmer as the mean-crazy-foul-mouthed defensive coordinator. After all, why mess with a formula that's maturing beautifully?
+ Chase Coffman is reportedly really coming along this offseason, impressing the coaches and some defensive players.
“Chase has really looked better. I think the work he had done on his ankles has freed him up a little bit. He’s much more fluid, balanced and he’s done some really good things. We’ve really been pleased with his progress. He can really catch it and he knows how to run routes and he’s learning all the other stuff, too. (He’s a) little savvy. Having been raised around the game (with) a father that was very successful.”
The idea of a double TE formation with Chase and Jermaine Gresham causing all sorts of hell with covering linebackers still makes me giddy.
+ Former Bengals first round pick (1991), Alfred Williams, recorded 26.5 sacks in his four-year career with the Bengals; including ten quarterback sacks in 1992. He finished with 59.5 quarterback sacks in his nine-year career which included a Pro Bowl and a spot on the First-Team All-Pro squad in 1996 (with the Broncos). Williams is one of 14 players and coaches being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
+ Pete Prisco wrote his overrated-underrated list, going through each team. For the Bengals:
Overrated: RB Cedric Benson. I know he had a nice season in 2009, but I just don't think he has the real pop backs need. Bernard Scott might take some carries from him this season.
Underrated: LT Andrew Whitworth. He has made a smooth transition from guard to left tackle. He is a brawler who has improved in pass protection. He played well against some top pass rushers last season.
Yes, yes. I also believe calling Benson overrated was a tad bit of a stretch.
+ Send questions for a chat with Dhani Jones on ESPN's SportsNation.
+ Marc Hardin takes a similar position to us at Cincy Jungle. Dismissing the "outrage" about where Chad's head is at with all of the television that Chad has been on, Hardin simply asks those that are outraged about Chad, where's the outrage about Dhani Jones?
+ Man, oh man, I love these Cincinnati Reds. The Reds scored seven runs in the first two innings, batting around in both frames. Scott Rolen's 12th homerun of the season, already surpassing the 11 he hit in 2009, was a three-run shot to start the scoring. In his last four starts, Johnny Cueto is 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA, which included last night's six-inning scoreless effort, striking out nine. Cincinnati is still a full game in first place over the whinny St. Louis Cardinals, who finally had enough of Jerry Hairston Jr's game winning homeruns on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Reds will host the National League's worst team, the Houston Astros (Reds have nearly scored 100 more runs than the 'Stros already) for a three-game set starting Friday night. Go Reds! Check out Red Reporter for more great coverage.
+ With Homer Bailey on the disabled list, rookie Sam LeCure will make his major league debut tonight against the Astros.
+ The Craig Sager SuitWatch included the "salmon-y orange" from Thursday night.
+ But I'm not sure if that was before or after Suns' coach Alvin Gentry's "discharge" into a trash can.
+ There's a chance that the Pro Bowl in 2014 could be in the Meadowlands a weekend before the Super Bowl. Clark Judge writes, "lord, oh lord, please don't go."