Now that the coaching staff is largely assembled, we have to admit that our general curiosity is peaking. Call it a fragile navigation through the unknown; what to expect from a team that has succeeded in four of the last five years but never truly achieved. Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer are gone -- great assets in their own respects (more Zimmer, obviously) but confined to the same antagonistic reality of being winless in the postseason. No excuses. All were parts of that sum.
It was inevitable that coaching changes were going to happen. Fighting that was not unlike Hamilton County locking horns against the Brown family -- as if there was any questions as to whether Mike Brown grasped the county by their manhood and twisted it with a malicious grin saying, "these are mine, too."
Are we entering a phase of upgrades or downgrades? You'll answer that without anything to back it up. Variables have replaced constants in this complicated formula.
Did the loss of Zimmer suddenly convert Queen City monsters into pups without a pop? Little is known about Paul Guenther, save for being the Marvin Lewis prodigy and the Mike Zimmer understudy who has never called plays on defense.
Hue Jackson adds very little clarity, considering he's piecing together a system that Jay Gruden implemented three years ago, not his own. At least there's familiarity and experience. But how can we say that this is his offense when he's just maintaining simplicity so that the offense doesn't have learn something new? We're running a little more! Oh, forgive me.
Destiny had pegged these departures last year. A one-year delay added one regular season win and then an identical postseason apocalypse. The goodbye was longer... and bittersweet.
Yet unsubstantiated and unqualified hope creeps from within the shadows, bullhorn in hand. These are the same players, coached by the same coaches. To Vontaze Burfict, Marvin Lewis was father, Mike Zimmer was motivator and Paul Guenther was developer. To BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the comfortable zone between the tackles absorbs his purpose as a power back that's designed to gain the touch yards. No more, "muhaha" Jay Gruden with his over-thinking chess match to outwit the opposing defense.
There are new voices on offense and defense, at running back, linebackers and within the secondary -- the addition of Vance Joseph is exciting. An interim defensive play-caller last year, Joseph has built a reputation of being a developer -- getting the most out of his players. Clearly he's developing into a future defensive coordinator -- and maybe a contingency if necessary.
"There’s probably no more revered secondary coach in the NFL than Vance Joseph," said Lewis. "Since he got let go with the Texans I've had my eye on him and have a chance to visit with him as soon as I could."
Maybe it's the instigator to shove Cincinnati through door that's been locked for five years, who knows. A stabilizing presence on offense will help Andy Dalton, who needs the sum of all parts nearing perfection before he's able to ride that train. Hue Jackson is going to push him. Maybe be a little tougher. It appears that he needs it. The reported coddling has only gone so far.
Either way, Lewis is right. This is another reboot. Clearly not as big as 2011, with a new starting quarterback, wide receiver, and a collection of up-and-coming defenders taking advantage of their opportunities. But big enough to think that the little things were the small mechanical pieces to enhance greater efficiency out of this motor.
Who knows. The curiosity is peaking.