When it comes to coaching in the NFL, it all starts at the top. Once again, Marvin Lewis has his football team off to a fast start. As the second longest tenured coach in the NFL, Lewis takes almost as much heat from the fans as Andy Dalton. Fair or not fair, every decision is scrutinized and discussed to support whatever camp you fall in. Have the coaches made the correct decisions this season? So far there have been some good and some bad calls and decisions made.
The first coaching decision I question from Marvin Lewis came during the second half of the game against the Oakland Raiders. The Bengals starters were left to finish a game that was well in hand and though a few backups came in momentarily, the starters did play out the game. To be fair, this could have been an effort to give the team more time to gel. With the collective bargaining agreement the way it is, there is less opportunity in the offseason to practice in pads. This garbage time could have been used by the coaching staff to try some new ideas and give the team more time to work together. Andy Dalton was asked after the game about formations used and he answered:
"At least one or two I think," Dalton said laughing when asked about how many formations were used in the first half. "Yeah I mean we had different looks and different stuff. It’s just kind of part of what we do. I’m not going to put a number on it. I don’t know how many but if there’s we can get a matchup we’re going to do it."
This leads me to believe after the game was no longer in doubt, this became an extended coaching session.
On the other hand, there could have been an injury and that would have been a horrible way to open the season. I will give Lewis the benefit of the doubt on this one.
Another decision Lewis made was the decision to bench outstanding running back Jeremy Hill against the Chargers. It takes guts to sit one of your best players and an emotional leader for the offense in a game that was still very close. Lewis gambled and I hope the message was clear to the young running back. After the game Lewis commented saying, "We had a little combination of both. Gio was carrying the ball, but we can't have a back fumbling the football either. Jeremy's a talented young player, and we've got to keep the football. That wasn't part of his deal last year, and we can't let it creep in."
One of the most frustrating pieces of Marvin's coaching during his tenure in Cincinnati is the lack of awareness or savvy concerning the game clock. In back-to-back weeks we watched questionable decision at the end of the first half when the Bengals may have had an opportunity to add to the scoreboard. Our own Anthony Cosenza touched on this in his winners and losers post:
Cincinnati took possession from their own 41-yard line with 33 seconds remaining in the first half. With two timeouts remaining in their luxurious pocket, Cincinnati had an ideal situation for a quick score prior to the half. Instead, Cincinnati wiped out nearly 20 seconds setting up their second play from midfield after a nine-yard Giovani Bernard reception. Why not use a timeout? By the time Cincinnati was ready to snap it, 11 seconds remained in the half and the Bengals lost an easy opportunity for a cheap halftime score.
What could have happened if the clock was managed more effectively? We'll never know.
The offense has been a bright spot for the Bengals this season. At 3-0, Jackson has Andy Dalton and crew playing very well and the Bengals look like they could score on any team in the league. It started with a win in Oakland where you know Jackson wanted to leave with the victory based on his past there. I reference the quote from Dalton above about how many formations the Bengals ran that day. Jackson had this offense ready to play.
The highlight of Jackson's calls this season has to be the calling of the pass play to Jake Fisher. A first year lineman out of Oregon enters the game and it is announced he is an eligible receiver. This is a strategy the Bengals have used often over the years to overload a side of the offensive line and run the football. Sometimes they pass on these plays, but never to the tackle reported as eligible. I am sure somewhere during this play Dennis Roland made a fist and yelled at the screen "I could do that!"
I need to start with what we saw on Sunday against the Ravens. There needed to be some more accountability for Steve Smith Sr. on the defense. This one player almost solely kept the Ravens in the game and almost secured the win for the team. I know the players hold some of the blame for the lack of tackling, but it seemed the cushion for Smith was too big and he ate the defense up.
I need to applaud Guenther on the decisions he made at corner. I think we are watching an incredible player being developed in Dre Kirkpatrick and the decision for him to start looks like the right one. Add to that the play from nickle corner Leon Hall and it looks like the defensive minds knew what they were doing when they made this switch. Hall has been excellent in his new role.
This just scratches the surface of what the coaches have done to this team and I hold the entire staff accountable for the confidence we are seeing from the Bengals. What have you noticed this season from the coaches? Let us know in the comments.