CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 11: Dre Kirkpatrick #27 of the Cincinnati Bengals listens to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer during a rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium on May 11, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
It's amazing what Mike Zimmer has done in his five years in Cincinnati. In that short time, he has made the Bengals a near-perennial top ten defensive unit and one of the more feared ones in the NFL--all without having a bonafide superstar player. After another solid finish in 2011 (No.7 overall), Zimmer experienced some coaching staff turnover. One was by choice and one wasn't.
Longtime secondary coach, Kevin Coyle, became a hot commodity this offseason and took a defensive coordinator position with the rebuilding Miami Dolphins. Coyle did wonders with his group in 2011, especially with the loss of Pro Bowl cornerback, Johnathan Joseph. Former linebacker coach, Jeff Fitzgerald, came to Cincinnati with Zimmer in 2008 and wasn't retained this offseason. It's not like he did a terrible job here, it just seems that the club wanted more out of players like Rey Maualuga, Dontay Moch and now-Giants linebacker, Keith Rivers.
Well, on Monday, Zimmer told the media (specifically CBSSports) that he and his staff aren't quite gelling yet.
DC Mike Zimmer admits changes to coaching staff (DBs/LBs) been tough. "Lot harder on me right now," he said. "Almost like first year here."
The new linebackers and secondary coaches he's referring to are recently-promoted Paul Guenther and recently-hired Mark Carrier, respectively. It's unclear as the what Zimmer specifically means here, but it's likely that he has to get his new coaches on the same page, philosophically speaking. Fitzgerald and Coyle had worked with Zimmer for years and knew exactly what was expected of them.
This isn't to say that the sky is falling and we should expect the defensive unit to struggle in 2012. Far from it. If there's a silver lining here, it's that this coaching turnover didn't occur last year when the team barely had any semblance of a true offseason. The staff and players all have over three months to continue to get on the same page. We've seen Zimmer work magic in worse instances, so we expect to see him wave his magic wand once again and have this shored up by September.