Teryl Austin has been officially introduced to the Cincinnati media as the new defensive coordinator of the Bengals. He and Marvin Lewis didn’t disappoint in discussing how things will change for the Bengals’ defense, why Austin came to Cincinnati and what it means for the Bengals’ defense to be aggressive moving forward.
Lewis wanted a coach to run the defense in a similar manner as in past years.
“I thought it was important to have somebody that would stay within in our structure, because of the personnel we have returning and that we didn’t have to make a drastic change,” Lewis said on Thursday morning. “The people that I reached out to — we only really had one come in officially — would not have our players have to re-learn the wheel.”
Lewis added that there will be a different way of doing things under Austin, while saying much will stay the same, too. This is a pretty standard Lewis take, and it makes sense for where this team is at the moment. The defense has some young talent, but for the most part this is a veteran group that hasn’t reached the top of its potential quite yet. What this defense needs is a fresh set of eyes to just adjust what they do to really emphasize the strengths of the players on the roster.
Austin on Vontaze Burfict
“I haven’t watched all of the tape from last year, but I know he’s a good ball player, from following him around the league,” Austin said of his thoughts on the Bengals’ star linebacker. “We saw some film of him at times last year, and you watch how he plays and the passion he plays with. I’m excited to work with him.”
A question that seemed to be answered when Lewis was brought back on as head coach has been confirmed really by Austin’s comments here. Burfict will undoubtedly be back with the team in 2018. He signed a contract extension just prior to the start of the 2017 season.
Regardless, it’s nice to hear Austin has a positive impression of Burfict as it will be vital for them to have a good relationship.
What Austin was looking for in his search for a new job
“You want to be somewhere where you have an opportunity to win and don’t have to overhaul things,” Austin said of what he was seeking in finding a new job this offseason. “When we came to Detroit, I was coming out of Baltimore, which was based out of an “under front” system. Then we got to Detroit, and they had a 4 - 3 front, and we had a lot of good players. So, what I did was adapt what we did and tried to use the players to the best of their abilities.”
This is great to hear from Austin as it will be key for the new Bengals DC to use his players to their strengths.
“We had a very successful year that first year we went in there, and it was really strong. We were trying to do what they were doing (previously), but trying and do it better. So, when you start looking, that’s one thing you … you don’t want to have to overhaul the system, get different types of players and change everything around. I think this will be a pretty smooth transition moving forward, and having the opportunity to help these guys get better.”
It makes sense that a defensive coordinator who has been busy with head coaching interviews just wants to go somewhere and be successful. He really couldn’t have found a better place. The Bengals are loaded on defense with talented young players and veteran talent alike. If Austin can show that he can get the most out of this group it should be a nice addition to his resume.
He also stayed with the theme of emphasizing what the players do best in his scheme. This is great to hear as sometimes it feels like the Bengals put players into a position in the scheme hoping they work their way into that role rather than molding a role around what players do well.
Austin focused on defense winning games and emphasizing turnovers
The Bengals’ new defensive coordinator sounds confident in Andy Dalton’s ability to succeed (though, he just called him a “fine” player) and the offense’s ability to help the team win games.
“I think when the offense is healthy, you have enough firepower on offense to help us (on defense). But really, I’m concerned about defense and making sure the defense does the right thing, and that our defense gives our team a chance to win, however that is,” Austin said. “I know a lot of times people say things like, ‘You’re ranked this, or you’re ranked this.’ All I care about is how many times can we help our offense and our team win the game. That’s what I’m most concerned about.”
One thing the Bengals didn’t do well at in 2017 was forcing turnovers. Meanwhile, that was a strength for Austin’s defense in Detroit. But, Austin says there’s no mindset to instill in that area, it’s just coaching.
“It’s like anything else in coaching: You get what you emphasize. I know for a few years, our first year (with the Lions), we were really good. Then, we kind of fell back a year. We talked about it and tried to emphasize (takeaways). This past offseason, I really dove into making sure we emphasized it more. We ran more takeaway drills, and we kept that going throughout the entire year. I think it paid off, because what our guys saw was tangible results early, and they kept building off of that. And that’s why I think we were able to get as many turnovers as we did this past year.”
Last season it was hard to ignore the impact the Bengals’ bad offense had on the defense’s performance. There were games where the defense was playing 20 more snaps then the offense, and it was easy to see the fatigue setting in. Still, Austin knows he can’t count on that as an excuse, which is good that he put that to rest already.
The Bengals were awful with creating turnovers this year, ending the season with the second least turnovers forced in the league, with 14. The only team to create fewer was the Browns.
It is clear that the Bengals need to improve in this category, and it seems like Austin has a plan to help them out with that. If he can even get the Bengals close to the Lions’ 31 turnovers from last season, we should see a quick turnaround overall for the team.
Lewis on interviewing for head coaching jobs and the Rooney Rule
The Rooney Rule always becomes a huge story this time of year when teams are hiring head coaches, and it’s a huge topic for debate. Austin even admits you can tell when a team is seriously evaluating you or “they’re just checking a box.” It’s a very sad reality that sometimes teams have their head coach already in mind, and the Rooney Rule just serves as a roadblock in getting to that end result for them.
Still, it is hard to deny the impact it has had around the league as there have been more African American coaches around the league then ever.
“When I made the statement about the Rooney rule, it was how I felt after that particular year, which I think was may be last year before the season. I thought, at the time, there were some interviews that weren’t … I didn’t put my best foot forward. That’s the best way to say it. Moving forward, it’s like anything. I didn’t get interviewed in Detroit, but it probably wasn’t going to happen because of what happened to us as a staff. I think, more importantly than worrying about the Rooney rule, I (need to) get my defense to play well, because then the other stuff will take care of itself in time.
“Sometimes you can tell when things are good. And so me of those interviews, it wasn’t because of the Rooney rule, it’s because I didn’t do very well. But other times, it was just, ‘Hey, we’re going to check this box and move on.’ But moving forward, if I have another opportunity and things work out … if I deserve to get (a head coaching job), I’ll get one. If not, I’ll move on, I’ll coach the guys the best way I can, and I’ll go from there.”
Austin on Marvin Lewis’ coaching tree being a selling point
“The best selling point is that you have a chance to work with a quality person and a quality team. That’s the biggest selling point,” Austin said of Marvin Lewis’ extensive coaching tree. “At some point, you have to put all that other stuff (aside) — that other stuff will take care of itself. You can’t control that, so when you have an opportunity to work with good people, good players, good teams, you have to take that chance. That’s what I was looking for more than, ‘Hey, I have a chance to work with Marvin and possibly become a head coach.’ That’s not what I’m looking for. What I’m looking for is an opportunity to coach some men, get better, work with a good group of guys, and try to make them successful.”
It is hard to deny the fact that Lewis’ coordinators get snatched up fairly quickly. We shouldn’t be surprised if Paul Guenther turns around the Raiders defense in 2018 and he gets a head coach job next season, too.
Still it is not a guaranteed thing, and Austin knows that. Even so, it’s easy to see a path to Austin becoming a head coach either in Cincinnati or elsewhere in the future.
Austin on being aggressive
“I think being aggressive is that, on defense, we are going to try and play on their side of the line of scrimmage,” Austin said of what he meant in referring to being aggressive in the press release announcing he was hired. “We’re going to play without fear. We’re going to play really physical and strong. I guess that’s what I mean by aggressive. We aren’t going to sit back and let somebody dictate what we do. That’s what I mean by aggressive. Aggressive is not fighting and talking and all that other stuff, it’s how you play the game. That’s what I want the people to see.”
This is it. This is the ideology that this defense has been missing since Mike Zimmer left Cincinnati. It felt like for too long that the defense was playing not to lose, and them allowing over 40 percent of third downs to be converted last season is the main illustration of that. The Lions only allowed 24 fewer third down conversions last years, and if you couple that with more turnovers, the Bengals defense could be a top 10 defense again next season.
If Austin comes to Cincinnati and starts attacking opposing offenses while maximizing the defense’s potential, we could see an entirely new and improved defense next season.