Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther receive the most attention, but Cincinnati's coaching staff is actually jigsawed into several components. There's position coaches, who take a direct role in coaching their players and report to coordinators who try making all of the pieces work together.
But there's only one special teams coach, (actually there's two, but this was meant to sound dramatic).
We're talking about special teams coach Darrin Simmons.
Forced to routinely rotate players based on the needs on the offense, defense and the team's overall roster, Simmons takes a collection of players on the bottom half of Cincinnati's roster and turns them into pure gold. Adam Jones makes ridiculous returns because he 1) makes a decision and goes with it (unlike the square-dancing Brandon Tate) and 2) there's always a lane for him to take advantage of.
"He has a natural feel for eluding players," Simmons said. "I've never been around somebody who can set somebody down in a hole like he can and then get them to move. It’s all natural to him. He doesn't think about doing that. It’s just something that happens for him, and he does it a lot. I still don't know how he makes some of the cuts he makes."
"He (Jones) runs with a purpose," said punter Kevin Huber, who is in Arizona this week attending his first pro bowl. "He’s fearless. He’s just got a knack for finding the hole, hitting the hole hard, avoiding tacklers. He’s a shifty guy. He’s always been like that. He can make guys miss. I’m just glad he’s on our team, and not a team we have to play."
Jones famously had his 63 punt returns without a fair catch streak broken this season against Tampa Bay, after taking two significant shots earlier in the game.
Huber, on the other hand, reset previously owned franchise records -- gross average (46.8) and net (42.1). Following early season adversity against Carolina (a makeable miss that led to a 37-37 tie), Mike Nugent converted 15 consecutive field goals before missing a 50-yarder in Pittsburgh. Dre Kirkpatrick made an impact as a gunner while Vincent Rey and Cedric Peerman contributed as captains, especially when the former was tasked with leading a defense that spent more time in the infirmary than on the field.
Per Rick Gosselin's annual special teams ranking -- a feast of arbitrary points that generally validates Simmons' work -- listed the Bengals as sixth-best in the NFL -- which is a nine-point improvement from 2013. The system, which categorically ranks special teams in 22 categories and assigns points like a golf score, rated Cincinnati second-best in 2012.
Take a bow Simmons.
Oh, and the second special teams coach... that's assistant coach Brayden Coombs, son to Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs. Excuse me. The National Champion, Ohio State Buckeyes.