At this time last year, Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was developing a playbook with no offseason, no prior experience at his coaching position, and a rookie quarterback waiting for orders as Carson Palmer seemingly had no intention on putting on a Bengals jersey any longer. It wasn’t long ago that Gruden was describing the offensive playbook as something that his players would be able to ease into; a simpler game plan that minimally needed baby steps to transition into.
Fast forward to 2012. Gruden made the most of his first full offseason by expanding his playbook, and as Kevin Kelly with the Cincinnati Enquirer writes, Gruden is expanding it substantially. In Kelly’s article, Gruden describes the extent of his playbook expansion.
Quite a bit...Probably too much. I’ve always been criticized about having too many plays. But I’d rather have too many than not enough.
Gruden’s initiative to unravel more into his players’ iPads is undoubtedly bolstered by a winning season in 2011, a playoff appearance, and three of his offensive players making the Pro Bowl – two of which were rookies. It's no surprise Gruden feels comfortable flexing his role as the Bengals offensive architect, and he's confident his players are ready to take the next step with him.
I think this year will give us a better understanding…Once they go out, break the huddle in Week 1, everybody will be a lot more confident in what they do and they’ll be able to go out and play harder and play faster instead of thinking so much.
As Kevin Kelly points out, the offensive core plays are already established coming into training camp. Gruden has the luxury of not only expanding the playbook further, but experiment with various formations and personnel groupings.
I think this team has a chance to be very good because we do have the ability to do a lot of different things with different people…Two backs. One back. Two tight ends. Three tight ends, maybe. Four receivers. No tight ends. So it will be exciting.
A lot has changed since the summer of 2011. Jay Gruden has proven he has the ability to efficiently operate an NFL offense, mold young players into Pro Bowlers, and most importantly: Win games. It will be certainly be interesting to see what Gruden develops beyond an already proven foundation.