Mike Zimmer. Jay Gruden. Names that will rotate, rumorgate and eventually irritate. Even Hue Jackson finding a vacant offensive coordinator could surface. Maybe. But not until the story is told about Gruden in Cincinnati.
Zimmer and Gruden, like last year, are having their names bounced around like a wrench-throwing game of dodgeball, becoming potential head coaching candidates from the East to the West, to the Woman That I... with teams employing vacant gigs on fact-finding missions regarding possible candidates.
Oh my god, we're going to lose someone! Maybe. That comes with the territory from a team qualifying for the postseason during three of the final four seasons. You should expect this. And frankly losing either coach would be more like a Mayan prophesy of doom, considering the Bengals have earned a postseason berth without both coaches being on the roster.
But there isn't much thought about keeping both coordinators in Cincinnati. Maybe there should.
Jay Gruden became a rumor dating back to late November after the Jacksonville Jaguars fired then head coach Jack Del Rio. Eventually Gruden reportedly became a top candidate in Jacksonville and was reportedly interested prior to Cincinnati's Wild Card game against the Houston Texans. A week later Gruden reportedly decided not to pursue anything, declining interviews with the Jaguars, St. Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts and... hey look, a brand spanking new three-year extension worth $3.6 million. Yay!
Prior to signing the extension Gruden hinted that he didn't feel ready for a promotion. However the strongest reason for staying was family, not wanting to move his son, a senior in high school last year, for a second straight year. Family, loyalty to the Brown family for the opportunity and a continuing mission with an offense that he has built may be enough to keep him in Cincinnati for another season. All we're saying is don't just disregard those things when factoring Gruden, who has plenty of years remaining in his NFL life to pursue a head coaching gig that would present a better situation than those available right now.
Mike Zimmer, on the other hand is different. He's qualified. Builds unity. Inspires and motivates players. So what's the problem? The problem has been his overall brusk personality, turning ownership off during interviews he's had. In other words, he's been himself. Last year Jeff Fisher choose the St. Louis Rams over the Dolphins, finalizing Miami's candidates to Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and Zimmer, who was formerly a candidate in St. Louis.
Eventually Zimmer was stricken from the top candidates in Miami because, get this, he was too blunt and honest for Miami's liking, per the Miami Herald.
The Dolphins liked Zimmer’s rèsumè, and he and general manager Jeff Ireland have a good relationship. But one source said he might have been too blunt and honest for the Dolphins’ liking. Zimmer can be outspoken at times, including calling former Falcons coach Bobby Petrino a "gutless b--tard" for leaving the job without telling any of his assistants.
That's our Zim.
"I'm honest," Zimmer said told Pete Prisco with CBSSports.com. "If they ask me something, I will tell them. I also think there's a reputation that people have about me after seeing us on Hard Knocks. They saw me cursing out guys and all that stuff. But I am not like that anywhere outside of in this locker room or in our rooms or on the field. I am never that way when I deal with people in the building."
Zimmer, also a candidate in Tampa Bay and eventually losing out to Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano, still has the desire to become a head coach but he told Don Banks with Sports Illustrated last year that he's growing frustrated.
"It's still alive, but sometimes you get frustrated over the course of time. I go back and think about what they said about Tony Dungy and guys like that. You kind of wonder sometimes, like what else can I do? What does it take? You wonder why some guys get interviewed or get a job over you, but you just end up going with it, and still keep hoping for that opportunity to run your own team.
"All I can do is say, 'Here's what I've done, this is my track record, and this is my reputation as a coach.' I'm a coach who can get a good nucleus of guys and make them into a good team, I think. With this team, we probably have a little more talent than we did in 2009, but these guys are still kind of jelling a little bit, because we added so many new guys with this crew. But hopefully, if we continue to go from here, maybe by the end of the year I'll feel like this is the best thing I've done."
Earlier this month, Zimmer expounded to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
“Honestly, I don’t listen to that stuff anymore. Honest to God’s truth,” Zimmer said, via Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I’ve had for so many years people say, ‘This is your year.’ Then at the end of the year for about three days I’m totally depressed because I see this guy get a job, that guy get a job, that guy get a job. So it’s in my best interest not to think about it, talk about it and just try to do the best job I can because I’m like (everybody else), I get disappointed too.”
In three of the last four years, Zimmer's defense in Cincinnati finished the season in the top-seven.
It's entirely possible that both leave Cincinnati to receive a well-deserved head coaching promotion.
As it stands there's seven spots available (possibly more later) and their names have already surfaced with Gruden being mentioned in Buffalo and Philadelphia. However in most cases right now there are tiers of candidates around the NFL with college coaches becoming the popular glow sticks, followed by the hot coordinators of the season; of which Gruden and Zimmer may or may not be categorized as right now. Most, if not all, mentions are merely due-diligence to formulate candidates list and everything involving Cincinnati's coordinators are mostly based on rumor.