Busy days usually happen when they're least expected.
Teams that are currently making decisions on their futures, not only impact their organizations, but the organizations from which coaches are pulled from. One assistant becomes a head coach and then a vacancy opens with the original team. Then a coach is promoted to coordinator and the domino falls across the league.
The Redskins reached an agreement with Jay Gruden on a five-year deal to become Washington's newest head coach on Thursday. Once the two thousand plus Bengals fans in Cincinnati volunteered to box his possessions and drive everything, using their own cars on their dime, to Washington, the revised question became "Is Hue Jackson replacing Gruden as the offensive coordinator?"
Alright. So asking that question was not unlike asking, "If I take a staple gun to my head and pull the trigger, will it hurt?" But it had to be asked. Even though it lasted for the better part of four hours, it was the first vacancy that Cincinnati has had among the top-three (head coach, offensive and defensive coordinator) since '11.
In truth, this was the best solution for everyone.
Gruden got his head coaching job, Hue Jackson will now lead the offense, and there's an obvious curiosity on how this will impact Andy Dalton.
Within 24 hours of having dinner with Bruce Allen on Tuesday night, Gruden met with Washington's front office and made the decision to accept Washington's offer to become their newest head coach.
It was time.
Gruden was facing fierce criticism from the locals based on the perception that Cincinnati's offense wasn't getting it done. Yes, the Bengals scored 430 points in 2013 -- the most since 1988 -- but the reality of that blind statistic is that the defense owned five touchdowns while special teams added another. Yes, the Bengals offense generated 5,891 yards of total offense -- the most since 1989.
On the other hand, the Bengals have progressively issued insecurity alarms, turning the football over 30 times in 2013 with 26 turnovers in 2012 and 22 in 2011. Then there's the playoff games where Cincinnati's offense offered virtually no competition against the Houston Texans and San Diego Chargers, scoring one touchdown in three games while turning it over eight times.
Gruden may become a good head coach in the NFL -- who can predict such things (a head coach has a different skill set than an offensive coordinator, so it might turn out to be true). And I really hope that he does; I liked him and he had his mad scientist moments that ended favorably. But it was time for his departure from Cincinnati.
Enter Hue Jackson.
A man with swagger that loves black-and-blue, hard-nose competition while saturating a defense with a serviceable ground game. In two seasons as Oakland's play-caller, their running game ranked 2nd (2010) and seventh (2011) respectively. The Raiders averaged 4.7 yards per rush and 143.9 yards rushing per game, with 35 combined touchdowns during that stretch.
"Hue likes to run the ball, but he'll also find a way to get it in the hands of his playmakers in that division if you can't run the ball," T.J. Houshmandzadeh via Bengals.com. "I'll bet half my earnings that the offense is going to be better."
There's also the curiosity with running back Darren McFadden, who recorded his best season (of an injury-laden career) with Jackson calling the plays. McFadden generated 1,157 yards rushing and seven touchdowns in 2010 and between '10 and '11, McFadden averaged 5.3 yards rushing on 336 attempts while scoring 11 touchdowns.
McFadden, who is entering the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, doesn't appear likely to return with the Raiders after injuries have ruined his promising career. The Raiders asked McFadden about an extension prior to the 2013 season, but he rejected their overtures, determined that he could stay healthy and become a productive running back again. It backfired.
Here's the thinking. McFadden, who would be stupid to demand much, signs an incentive-laden deal based on playing time. Financial risk is limited and if he doesn't work out (aka, continues with his saturation of injuries), Cincinnati still has the one-two punch of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard. I'm thinking more Larry Johnson's tenure than anything. Give him a few opportunities to run and if he's explosive again, ride that pony as far as he'll take you. If not, no harm, no foul.
The biggest point of curiosity for me is how Andy Dalton reacts to Jackson. A report surfaced in October that the Bengals coaching staff were babying their quarterback, more than "admonishing him to improve."
Sources say Dalton also routinely produces uneven efforts on the practice field and that coaches, rather than admonishing him to improve, tend to offer primarily positive reinforcement.
We can't see that out of Jackson. We envision Jackson pushing Dalton harder than Gruden had, actually collapsing the quarterback's self-contained world into something more motivating. Maybe it's the only spark needed for a quarterback who has achieved plenty of success, but hasn't eliminated the most elemental of questions.
Thursday changed things in Cincinnati. And it feels like it was good change, for two organizations who needed that change.