The Bengals will face a team for the second week in a row that is led by a former Cincinnati offensive coordinator. After taking down Hue Jackson’s Browns last week, this week the Bengals will attempt to defeat Jay Gruden’s Redskins. Gruden spent three years in Cincinnati as offensive coordinator from 2011-2013, and all three of his seasons with the team ended with playoff berths. Gruden was also Andy Dalton’s first offensive coordinator in Cincinnati and helped to develop the Bengals’ signal caller into the player he is today.
“I’m excited, man,” Gruden said about facing the Bengals. “I mean, I can’t wait. Really, it sounds funny — it’s such a big game for us. I really don’t care where we play them. I just can’t wait to play the game.”
This will be the first time Gruden faces his former team since leaving the Queen City for the head coaching job in Washington. His first season was a rough one in Washington as the team only won four games, but last year they went 9-7, won the NFC East and were bounced out of the playoffs in the Wild Card round (sound familiar?).
"We did a lot of great things over there, we thought, but come game time it's going to be another game that we have to win," Gruden said this week of his time in Cincinnati. "They're very well-coached, they have a good football team. It will be a great test for us."
Playing the Bengals isn’t only a good test for the Redskins; the same as true for the Bengals in going up against the Redskins. Washington is 4-3 and the Bengals have yet to beat a team with a winning record. Though, if the Bengals beat the Redskins, Washington would no longer have a winning record when they leave London, it would have the same record as Cincinnati, 4-4.
Andy Dalton also reflected on his time with Gruden this week during his press conference.
“Jay taught me a lot and he gave me a lot of freedom at the line of scrimmage,” Dalton said Wednesday of his former offensive coordinator. “He allowed me to change plays and get into plays that were better-suited for the defenses that we were getting, and so it taught me a lot just through the preparation of it. I feel like he’s got a big part in the reason I’ve been playing the way I have here recently, and he’s got me to be the player I am today.”
The Bengals are now on their second offensive coordinator since Gruden as Jackson only spent two seasons as OC before getting a head coaching job of his own. With Ken Zampese now at the helm, the offense has had the creative touch of three different leaders in the last four years.
“Each person has put his hands on it his own way. That’s what they are supposed to do,” Lewis said this week of the team’s evolving offensive identity with each offensive coordinator. “They’re the play-caller and the one who’s installing things, and then we apply it to the opponents. Jay got it going in making the transition from a poor season before he arrived. We installed things that way with nomenclature, thinking, and philosophies. The other guys have been able to take it and run with it.”
Lewis does credit Gruden for getting Dalton’s career started off on a high point.
“Jay got Andy (Dalton) off to a tremendous start in the NFL. The offense unfolded through Andy, which was a great credit to how Jay set things up for him.”
Dalton also Lewis reflected back to the 2011 offseason this week and talked about his first conversation with Gruden about the now-Bengals quarterback.
“I remember walking in Jay’s office and saying, ‘Have you seen the kid from TCU? He doesn’t throw a bad ball,’” Lewis said. “Jay hadn’t gotten that far in looking at the quarterbacks yet. Andy happened to be one of the guys that I had seen early. We were fortunate it worked out great. Now, the proof is in the pudding come Sunday.”
While Gruden is now in his third year as a head coach, he hasn’t forgotten all he learned in Cincinnati and the talented coaching staff he was a part of.
“I learned a lot. Not just from Marvin, that whole staff,” Gruden said. “You know, I had a great offensive staff with me. Kenny Zampese, Hue Jackson was on that staff, Paul Alexander, you know, Kyle Caskey, James Urban. We had a great offensive staff, and then Jonathan Hayes. Not to mention the defensive staff with [Mike] Zimmer and [Paul] Guenther. Those two guys they challenge you every day in practice. If you’re not ready with your X’s and O’s and your pick-ups, they’re going to embarrass you in front of your team.
“And you’ve got to have the answer, so part of the reason I’m standing up here today is because of the staff members that I had there and obviously the players, but also the defensive guys. But Marvin created an environment that was fun to work in. Got the players that love football and he was just a great football coach.”
The Bengals took down one offensive coordinator last week; can they take down his predecessor this week in London? Let’s hope so!