When talking about coaches in the history of the Cincinnati Bengals, there are some good, bad and ugly. While quality coaches have been selected such as Sam Wyche and Marvin Lewis, others who were bypassed had outstanding careers, a la Bill Walsh and Tom Coughlin respectively.
On occasions when the Bengals decided to promote very successful coordinators in their system to head coach, it blew up in their face, while other unproven coaches with football lineage came with mixed results. We had to tread lightly when selecting the best staff possible.
Paul Brown: It's hard to choose against the founder of the team and one of the biggest innovators of the NFL as we see it today. His success as the actual head coach was limited with the Bengals, though it was incredible with the Cleveland Browns, but Brown did build the team at its inception. Though the man had a reputation for running the team as a modern form of feudalism, he had an eye for talent and helped to develop many aspects we see in today's professional football.
Honorable Mention, Marvin Lewis: While Lewis is the longest-tenured, winningest and possibly the most-scrutinized head coach in Bengals' history, Lewis should get a heap of credit. The Bengals have made the postseason during nearly half the seasons during which Lewis has been coach and he has continuously built and re-built quality rosters. His biggest feat is bringing the Bengals out of the awful 1990s, but unlike his predecessors, Lewis has yet to garner a playoff win in six tries. Assistant all-time head coach, maybe?
Honorable Mention, Sam Wyche: Possibly the most well-liked coach in Bengals history, Wyche took the team to its most recent Super Bowl in 1988. He did not have as many playoff appearances as Lewis, but definitely has more wins when there. If anything, Wyche deserves credit for constantly donning an awesome sweater and creating insanely intense rivalries with Cleveland, as well as the then-Houston, Oilers thanks to their quirky head coach, Jerry Glanville. Should Wyche be assistant head coach over Lewis on this roster?
Bruce Coslet: Why not Walsh, you ask? Well, the Hall of Fame coach who built one of the greatest teams in NFL history, AKA the 1980s 49ers, was never a coordinator when with the Bengals. Coslet, on the other hand, engineered an incredibly innovative offense that was almost No. 1 across the board in every major category during the team's 1988 Super Bowl run. Coslet's resume is tarnished by his head coaching career with both the Jets and the Bengals.
Dick LeBeau: This designation might be better coined as a lifetime achievement award, but like Coslet, LeBeau helped engineer a great Bengals defense in the 1980s. While Mike Zimmer had more consistency, LeBeau created a quality defense with lesser talented players on his unit. Guys like Carl Zander and Jason Buck became household names thanks to LeBeau, even though they were marginal starters. His schemes put his players in the best possible positions in which to succeed, even if they weren't as talented as other defenses.
Mike Zimmer: If Zimmer can't beat out LeBeau, he still needs to be on the staff. The salty pirate-like coach had a knack of getting the most out of players, especially those thrown on the scrap heap. Zimmer was perhaps the biggest key to the Bengals' five postseason performances in the past six seasons, even if he wasn't around for 2014. He has an eye for talent and the ability to motivate unlike many other coaches who've come through the Bengals' organization.
Bill Walsh: Why is one of the best coaches in NFL history relegated to an assistant position with the Bengals? Well, quarterbacks coach is the highest rank he climbed in the Bengals' organization. Because of this fact, we simply can't raise him above his historical pay grade with the organization. Technicalities suck and things might have been much different for the history of the franchise if Walsh hadn't been passed over for other familiar figureheads.
Special Teams Coach:
Darrin Simmons: Under Simmons' watch, the Bengals' special teams unit has become quite solid after being a joke of a unit in the 1990s. Since taking over the duties in 2003, Simmons has solidified the team's kicking game with a variety of players filling the position, as well as locking up the coverage teams. There is the frustrating element of giving the return duties to players perceived to have lesser ability than others, but that has changed a bit in recent seasons. Even when major issues pop up, such as the 2009 long snapper debacle, Simmons recognizes a weakness and adjusts.
Running Backs Coach:
Jim Anderson: Very rarely do NFL coaches hold a position for nearly three decades, much less with the same team. Anderson coached multiple Pro Bowl players at running back and many other effective players at the fullback position during his tenure with the Bengals. James Brooks, Ickey Woods, Corey Dillon, Rudi Johnson, Lorenzo Neal and so many others found success under Anderson's tutelage. While the Bengals organization and Brown family get criticized for their favoritism and nepotism, Anderson was a great coach who they hung on to for quite some time.
Offensive Line Coach:
Paul Alexander: While the grizzled old coach has had his share of iffy decisions, many low-round picks have become effective players under his watch. Aside from that, Willie Anderson and Andrew Whitworth were some of the best offensive linemen at their respective positions under Alexander's tutelage. One facet of Alexander's coaching which is often overlooked is his ability to cultivate the versatility gene in his players. Tackles can play guard, centers can play play guard and vice-versa all-around.