Since Marvin Lewis became the Bengals head coach in 2003, two of the team’s coordinators have left for promotions as head coaches elsewhere.
It took a while, but Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer both earned head coaching positions in 2014. Lewis could see two more of his assistants becomes the top man in charge someday, one of whom already has been a head coach.
Offensive Coordinator, Hue Jackson has one year as a head coach under his belt, an 8-8 season with the Raiders in 2011 that saw the team finish one game out of the playoffs. Jackson has received interest for several head-coaching jobs since, but never enough to actually secure the job. This offseason he interviewed with the Buffalo Bills for their head coaching vacancy, which was quickly filled by Rex Ryan.
Robert Klemko of the MMQB compiled a list of 32 current coaches in both the NFL and college football who may become NFL head coaches in the near future; Jackson came in at No. 12.
Résumé: A true wild card on this list, Jackson is an imminent hire in the eyes of some and a bust in the eyes of others. He started his career at Pacific—Pete Carroll’s old stomping grounds—as a graduate assistant in 1987 and made it to the NFL in 2001 as Washington’s running backs coach. His lone head-coaching gig, with the Raiders in 2011, lasted one 8-8 season before he was fired by new GM Reggie McKenzie. Jackson knows how to play the media game and has built a marketing machine around his candidacy for several years, but his first season as coordinator failed to bring about measurable change in the play and production of fourth-year starter Andy Dalton.
M.O.: A proven, respected leader with better-than-adequate play-calling acumen. And hails from a Bengals organization that asks a lot of its assistants, which has helped many men move up the ladder, including Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer.
Jackson wasn't the only Bengals assistant to make Klemko’s list. Secondary coach Vance Joseph, who has been gaining a lot of prestige this offseason also snuck onto the list at No. 31:
Résumé: A former University of Colorado standout, Joseph spent several years coaching defensive backs at his alma mater before San Francisco offered him the same position in 2005. The Bengals blocked Denver’s interview request for Joseph for their defensive coordinator position in 2015.
M.O.: Not known to most fans, but definitely known to coaches throughout the league. After another successful year for Cincinnati’s secondary—a secondary that wasn’t always healthy—his name popped up on interview lists this past offseason.
Jackson definitely has the inside track on becoming a head coach again since he's already a coordinator. You rarely see a secondary coach transition straight to a head coaching role, so Joseph is probably several years from getting the top job on an NFL team.