When the Cincinnati Bengals fired Bob Bratkowski and hired Jay Gruden, it was a celebration that rivaled any in the city's history. A flat and predictable offense would be replaced by a form of the West Coast, which, Bengals fans, boast, was a Cincinnati thing first! It has to be better than what we've had, right?
Now that Gruden has spent three years in Cincinnati, working an offense that ranked outside twentieth or worse in the first two years but finally scratching into the top-ten in '13, he solidifies himself as a probable head coaching candidate.
Why Gruden is qualified as a head coach: Let's face facts. Being a successful coordinator doesn't automatically translate into being a good head coach. Ask yourself how many head coaches have been fired in the past two years after originally being hired as successful coordinators? Theoretically, the opposite could be true.
Gruden has experience as a head coach from his tenure in the Arena Football League and the United Football League with two championships in '98 and '00. What could another, if not lesser, league matter in the NFL? Football is football. There's coaches, there's players, there's players, there's winners and losers. Applying experience towards a league's championship proves that one can lead.
As an offensive coordinator, one must gameplan with the Xs and Os, personnel packages, while looking for weaknesses in the opponents defense, before the game and during it. One could argue that an offensive coordinator is a leader of the offense, but the reality is that their time is so consumed with planning that standing before a team and giving speeches that motivates players is more suited for the head coach.
As a head coach, one's duties significantly change. Most coaches defer their previous responsibilities and delegate everything to their coaching staff. When Marvin Lewis was hired, the defensive coordinator on Baltimore's 2000 defense deferred his defensive duties to Leslie Frazier. After struggles late in '04, Lewis took over those responsibilities but the defense didn't improve.
In the end, offensive coordinators plan for the offense. Gruden has proven to be successful in games, such as the New York Jets, but has also squandered opportunities during bigger games in which the Bengals needed creative direction.
Why he's not qualified as a head coach. When your offensive coordinator is being blamed for the lack of growth with your franchise quarterback, don't take it as simple fan frustration. There are questionable calls. There are times that Gruden over-thinks simplistic situations -- such as passing on third and one when BenJarvus Green-Ellis has converted several similar situations against the San Diego Chargers in the past.
Head coaches require patience and growth of a team, especially if you're hired onto a team looking for new direction. Those questions are relevant in Gruden's case, based on Cincinnati's need to develop a better offense during bigger games.
He could become a good head coach; who can predict such things. But many hold reservations, based on what was seen in three years as the offensive coordinator.