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Something Old, Something New

With two new coordinators promoted from within, the Cincinnati Bengals may have found the perfect way to effect change without moving backwards.

Andy Lyons

This week was one of immediate change. Many are disappointed by what's occurred, already jonesing for Mike Zimmer to change his mind and come back, and the next Bengals team will be coordinated by different men, but like or not, we are all moving forward with this.

And what's to cry about, honestly? We all knew Marvin was not getting fired, nor moving upstairs to GM. We knew Zimmer and Jay Gruden were serious head-coaching candidates based on numerous interviews each has had in the past. Most agreed they deserved their shot and wished them the best when they earned their chance.

The selections to replace the two were the least-surprising decisions available. Those who follow closely, or even remotely, know that Mike Brown is as loyal as a bloodhound to his people. He would rather go with someone he knows and feels he can trust, sometimes negligently so, rather than bring in outsiders, and in this case he followed suit, promoting from within to fill both positions.

Let's not pretend, however, these guys aren't qualified for their new jobs. Hue Jackson is a veteran to this game. He was a terrific play-caller in Oakland who featured a creative run-game and a dynamic fullback in Marcel Reece. Players like Jacoby Ford, Jason Campbell and Darren McFadden enjoyed their career's best stretches with Hue. He gets to sit in the captain's seat to an offense with payloads of young talent. He knows the personnel better than any other candidate and lacks the softness some of us perceived in Gruden at times.

My only concern with Jackson is the big-shot syndrome. Hue Jackson appears to consider himself a very cool guy, a beacon of proven knowledge. He has coached high-level football for decades and knows a whole universe of game elements I may never learn, but getting in the faces of players doesn't always go well and can sometimes lead to some division among the ranks. I still don't the know details, and maybe never will, but I remember there being rumblings of a fight between Chad Johnson and Hue Jackson at halftime in the 2005 Wild-Card game. Chad is a renown hothead, and if it happened, we give the adult points to Hue on that one, but perhaps other personality-types may have defused the situation before it got out of hand, who knows?

I'm not saying Hue Jackson is going to come in and fight his players or make them feel bad, but I thought the team chemistry last year was tremendous for the Bengals and we have seen the catastrophes of a sour locker room before. Marvin's group management has perhaps extended a bit further than last year with Hue more in the forefront, but this all seems like me making an issue out of nothing, so we can ignore it for now.

As for Paul Guenther, it feels like he is as deserving of his new post as Zimmer is head-caoching in Minnesota. He's been with the team since 2005 and has commiserated with a lot of successful football people during that time. This is not a case of cronyism run amok, other teams were sniffing around on him as their own coordinator too. Dues were paid in the case of Pauly G.

These men aren't schleps that Mike Brown thought he could save a buck on. They're seasoned and ready to do a great job. I think they deserve a fair shot before we start hunting around for our pitchforks and lanterns.

What else is nice about them being internally promoted is the sameness mixed with the newness.

Learning a new terminology in regards to football plays is apparently a monster academic undertaking for NFL players. When they are used to one language, their brains have a hard time picking up a new one, so neither side has to worry about that.

As for the differences, something should change after three straight playoff losses. After all, the phrase "three straight playoff losses" indicates a great deal of success mixed with consistent disappointment. Blow up the whole thing? Hardly necessary. Add a fresh, but not alien, perspective? Yes, let's try that.

Hue wants to run the ball more, and I do too. Giovani Bernard is an immediate fan favorite and his ability to do damage in the passing game is fun, but late in the season, his rushing totals became too small and many of his attempts were kind of worthless. Even passing to him proved difficult, as Andy Dalton had a hard time connecting with the tiny target. BenJarvus Green-Ellis still has a lot to offer as a compliment to the other backs in the stable, and was forgotten in the playoff game to the Chargers despite a nice showing on his eight attempts. And a third back should be mixed in to some degree this upcoming campaign as well. Perhaps they simply didn't trust Cedric Peerman to carry the rock last year, but he only saw action in blow-out minutes. A multi-back approach doesn't need to be limited to just two. McFadden will be on the market this spring and will come discounted in the scratch, dented and injured section of the free-agent store. I would welcome a third style of ground-game kung fu and extend the ways to kill defenses even further with McFadden in the mix.

As for Guenther, I don't know how he will be different from Zim. How could we know? He seems like an intense dude, and I would surmise that intense dudes like to blitz more than the relaxed guys (Leslie Frazier, for instance), but that's complete speculation. He gets the pair of injured stars back next year in Geno Atkins and Leon Hall, he gets a developing megastar in Vontaze Burfict, and he likely gets a fairly high draft pick to work on. I wouldn't go as far to say that this defense can take care of itself no matter who is calling the shots, but I do feel like this group is far more advanced than your average defense and is hardly a rebuild job.

Because the Bengals are the experiment that we constantly monitor, it will be exciting to analyze the changes these two men will bring about. Can they push the team over the top and get a playoff win? Only time will tell, but they have as good of a shot as any. Many still blame Marvin Lewis, but the program he runs is turning his underlings into head coaches and is making the playoffs every year. The problem last year was a devastating second half, one that Marvin had little options to salvage. It was a meltdown of decision making, but not his decisions. Removing him might be a positive, but is not currently warranted. The change of philosophy the two new coordinators bring is the perfect balance of change and consistency. I feel good about this.