Over the past few days, there seems to have been some sort of moratorium on positivity around here. While I think it's safe to say that the departure of Jay Gruden is not to blame for this, the continued presence of Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton, and the forthcoming departure of Mike Zimmer have everyone very worried. I am not one of those people.
We'll start with the big one, Mike Zimmer leaving us. Without a doubt, Zim has been one of the best coordinators to stroll the sidelines in Cincinnati, and one of the best in the NFL over the past few years. As coordinators with a résumé like that tend to do, Zim is on one of the next trains out of town. That leaves us with what seem to be two different options: Jim Schwartz or Paul Guenther. Both of them have potential to be good coordinators, and I wouldn't be dissatisfied with either hiring.
CJ members seem to be a little wary of Guenther's lack of experience. The fact of the matter is that all coordinators are inexperienced at some point in their career. However, Guenther has been under the tutelage of the great and almighty Zim since 2008. If there's one thing coaches like to do, it is move up. It would make sense for someone who is in the presence of an obviously good defensive coordinator such as Mike Zimmer to absorb as much knowledge as possible in hopes of attaining that promotion. Additionally, the rumors of both Zimmer and Jay Gruden tabbing him as their potential defensive coordinator shows what people who have worked with him think of his potential.
The only alternative that we know of at this point is Jim Schwartz. He has a longstanding connection with Marvin Lewis. As most of us know, in the professional world, who you know is usually more important than what you know. Luckily, Schwartz has had some success as well. I know that when most people think of Jim Schwartz, they think of the disciplinary problems that plagued the Lions, his spat with Jim Harbaugh, etc. In looking at his time as a defensive coordinator with the Titans, there have been some highs (four years ranked in the top 13) and lows (four years ranked in the bottom seven). Coincidentally, his better years coincided with having better players, and vice-versa. Looking at his best year in 2008, and comparing that defensive roster to ours, the talent level is close, with out team being stronger in the front seven, and that team holding the advantage in the secondary with three out of four defensive backs making the Pro Bowl.
While neither of these guys are Mike Zimmer, when armed with the talent we have on defense, any coordinator has the opportunity to have success. Schwartz has shown that he is capable of doing to, and Guenther has witnessed first hand what it takes to do so. A talented defense can make a coordinator look good. A defense full of also-rans can make a good coordinator look bad as well.
The next topic at hand is Marvin Lewis. There are still quite a few people calling for his head. The reality is that he isn't going anywhere, so get used to it for at the very least, another year. This is the guy that rescued us from a very dark era in Bengals football. While that is great, his greatest accomplishment, and the reason you should want him to stay is that he has completed one of the most important tasks in Bengals history: He has wrestled a significant amount of control of the roster away from Mike Brown. Let's say that in some hypothetical alternate reality, the Bengals fire Marvin Lewis and hire whatever candidate you want, whether it be Mike Zimmer, Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Vince Lombardi, etc. That new candidate is going to work, just as Marvin had to, to attain some amount of control over personnel decisions. No matter how great of a coach they are, how good do you think we'll be with Mike Brown making all of the personnel decisions? As the old saying goes, you can polish a turd all you want, but you still have a turd at the end of the day. In that situation, your new wonder coach would be the polisher, and our Mike Brown-ized roster would be the turd.
Lastly, we have Andy Dalton. When people complain, it usually helps to have a realistic solution to the problem. If you haven't looked around, there is not a free agent upgrade to Dalton. There just isn't. The possibility of a good quarterback being available to us in the draft, especially a "franchise" or "elite" quarterback, is basically nonexistent as well. The last solution that I've heard is trade up, or pull a Washington Redskins type move and trade a million draft picks to take Teddy Bridgewater. Not only has that not worked out very well for the Redskins thus far, who is to say that Bridgewater isn't the next Akili Smith?
Look, I know he's not Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. Maybe he can be. He probably won't be, but there can still be an abundance of success with a good but not great quarterback. For evidence look at all those hallowed names that have hoisted the Lombardi trophy: Joe Namath (yeah he's in the Hall of Fame. Why he is, I'm not sure.), Doug Williams, Jeff Hostetler, Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, and Joe Flacco. He's still only entering his fourth year. It took Peyton five years to win a playoff game. It took Drew Brees five years and a new team to do so, and he had Ladainian freaking Tomlinson to hand the ball off to! This year, we have a new offensive mindset, or so it would seem, with Hue Jackson. A quarterback's best friend is a strong running game, which is exactly what Hue plans to emphasize. Not only that, I think it's safe to say that Hue will correct issues that he sees with Andy's play, as opposed to the coddling approach we've heard about Jay Gruden taking with him. In no alternate reality could I see Jay's method being more effective than what I think Hue will do. Andy is a professional, and seemingly pretty mentally tough. He's not an emotionally-fragile little boy like some people make him out to be. This is a 26 year-old man who has played at the highest levels in high school and college, and is now the starting quarterback for a successful NFL team.
So, my Cincy Jungle friends, do not be so scared of change. Wasn't it Albert Einstein that said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results?
***This is me letting Josh know that I would like to be considered as a contributor for Cincy Jungle***