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Week in Review: Bengals coaching carousel

The Cincinnati Bengals have completed coaching staff overhaul. We take a quick look at those changes from this week.

NFL: OCT 16 Rams at Lions Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Like most of you — I’m a thought-provoking bro that writes words (sometimes coherently) on websites and care of my readers, the greatest people in the world — I have a day job. As a result, there are stretches throughout the week that news about the Bengals flashes by without any acknowledgement from me. So in the guise of a “week in review”, most of these updates are things I’m finally learning for the first time.

And then there were none.

Nearly two weeks after Marvin Lewis’s “will he stay or will he go” self-fulfilled mini-drama, the Bengals have nearly rebuilt their coaching staff.

With the Bengals reportedly “bringing in” Daronte Jones to coach cornerbacks — we assume the wording means he’s hired, and that he isn’t coming in for an interview — and Alex Van Pelt to coach quarterbacks, Cincinnati is nearly set. There are minor gigs, like assistant wide receivers coach, previously held by Dan Pitcher, who is shifting into a duel role as offensive assistant and assistant quarterbacks coach.

However, the team’s website tends to add/keep names that are otherwise unreported. In addition, I’ve been “writing/blabbering” about the Bengals since 2003 (yes, I started with another website the same year Marvin Lewis joined the team). Historically, the depth charts and coaching directories haven’t always been the most current. Trusting the motherships data carries risk.

So what’s changed?

+ Despite Oakland’s 11th hour attempt to acquire former Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin (dick move, Paul), Cincinnati announced an agreement with Austin, making him Marvin Lewis’s fifth defensive coordinator since 2003. Austin replaces the defector Paul Guenther, who joined Jon Gruden’s staff in Oakland.

One reason Lewis tabbed Austin was familiarity for his players, especially in regards to scheme. “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 during Thursday’s press conference introducing Austin. “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. There are things that Teryl did the last few seasons in Detroit that are very compatible with what we do. He can shape (our defense) now with his hands, and with the rest of the coaches.”

Austin inherits some amazing players, several with Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors including Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who Austin is excited to coach.

“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. “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.

“There is good talent here,” Austin adds. “Like every year, I’m sure we’re going to try to add that talent, then it’s my job to make sure that talent performs on the field. I’m looking forward to working with the guys, getting them together, trying to get them to reach as individuals so that we can reach our potential as a team.”

For Austin, he recognizes the opportunity of becoming one of Marvin Lewis’ coordinators. Of Lewis’ previous four defensive coordinators, two have become head coaches for the Minnesota Vikings, and Guenther is widely expected to become one eventually. Lewis’s coaching tree includes two offensive coordinators who are running their own teams — though for how long?

“We’re going to play without fear,” Austin concluded Thursday. “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.”

Holy shit, are you fired up, yet?!

+ Prepare for Co-Defensive Backs. Bengals assistant secondary coach Robert Livingston is returning to Cincinnati. According to a source, the deal is for two years. Is he the team’s secondary coach that’s replacing Kevin Coyle, or will Livingston remain an assistant with a focus on safeties? While the team’s website calls him a secondary coach, removing the assistant tag, the Bengals haven’t confirmed the transition and Bengals.com doesn’t offer much guidance either.

Geoff Hobson writes about the transition going through the secondary, specifically the departure of Coyle, who has focused on cornerbacks. Hobson writes that the Bengals “are keeping safeties coach Robert Livingston and that’s a plus. He’s an emerging young coach they like that provides a familiar figure in the room that can smooth the transition.”

In another story summarizing the departure of Paul Guenther, Hobson writes that Jim Haslett, Jacob Burney, and Livingston are returning. There’s no additional mention of Livingston, nor any reference of a suspected promotion.

It seems more likely that Cincinnati will split the role, similar to Mark Carrier and Vance Joseph between 2014-15, with Carrier focused on safeties and Joseph on cornerbacks. ESPN’s Katherine Terrell adds that the “Bengals considered Livingston and Coyle more of co-coaches rather than Livingston being under Coyle. It will be a similar situation this time, although a source said Livingston will ‘take the lead.’” The Cincinnati Enquirer only writes that Livingston “is the team’s secondary coach” adding they’ll hire another coach to replace Coyle.

On Friday, Cincinnati announced that Daronte Jones will coach cornerbacks.

Jones started his coaching career at Bowie State, eventually becoming an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator (2005-09). After a one-year stint as UCLA’s cornerbacks coach (2010), Jones shifted to the Canadian Football League, coaching defensive backs for the Montreal Alouettes (2011). Between 2012-14, Jones worked with defensive backs for Hawaii, before moving to Wisconsin (2015). He joined the Miami Dolphins coaching staff on Feb. 12, 2016 as an assistant defensive backs coach.

+ Offensive line gets their position coach. Cincinnati added Frank Pollack to their coaching staff, the team announced on Thursday. Pollack, taking on the task of improving the offensive line, has had a similar role with the Houston Texans (assistant between 2007-11), Oakland Raiders (2012), and Dallas Cowboys (2013-14 as the assistant and 2015-17 as the head offensive line coach), where he worked with former first rounders in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin.

“We did a little bit of everything,” Pollack reflects from his time in Dallas via Bengals.com. “We ran wide zone. We ran tight zone. We ran perimeter schemes to gaps. We kind of did it all. Misdirection.”

Pollack has a unique opportunity to develop an offensive line saturated with youth, from guards Christian Westerman, Alex Redmond, and Troy Hopkins, to offensive tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, provided the latter is able to continue his professional playing career.

“He’s a very capable guy. A smart guy. He’s a steady hand. He brings a great blend as a player and a coach,” veteran offensive tackle Eric Winston said via Bengals.com. “He knows what it’s supposed to look like. I think he’s got all the pre-requisites to be successful in Cincinnati and he can bring kind of a new perspective with fresh eyes.”

Paul Alexander, Cincinnati’s previous offensive line coach, was hired by Jets head coach Bruce Coslett as New York’s tight ends coach in 1992. Two years later, Coslett returned to Cincinnati as the team’s offensive coordinator in 1994. Alexander followed him to initially coach tight ends, but then transitioned to the offensive line for the next 23 years. Cincinnati didn’t retain him for the 2018 season.

“I’d like to thank the Bengals for the career of a lifetime as I was honored to coach and work with tremendous men in this organization,” Alexander said in a statement. “Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis are great men who I love and respect. But, as coach Jim McNally passed the baton to me 23 years ago, it’s time for me to do the same. It’s just time. On behalf of my family, we are both grateful and excited to discover our next NFL experience.”

Cincinnati had interviewed or considered former Bengals coach Jim McNally, Cardinals offensive line coach Harold Goodwin and Utah offensive coach Jim Harding, among others.

“He’s been exposed to good players,” McNally said of Pollack via Bengals.com. “He knows what good players look like. He’s been taught by Bill Callahan and I’ve worked a lot with him and have got a lot of respect for Bill Callahan.”

+ Finally the Bengals hired wide receivers coach Bill Bicknell, who has coached receivers at Baylor, as well as the 49ers, Eagles, and Bills.

Here’s how the coaching staff looks:

Bengals 2018 Coaching Staff

BENGALS COACHES 2018 2017
BENGALS COACHES 2018 2017
Head Coach Marvin Lewis Marvin Lewis
*** *** ***
Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor Ken Zampese / Bill Lazor
Quarterbacks Coach Alex Van Pelt Bill Lazor
Running Backs Kyle Caskey Kyle Caskey
Wide Receivers Bob Bicknell James Urban
Tight Ends Jonathan Hayes Jonathan Hayes
Offensive Line Frank Pollack Paul Alexander
*** *** ***
Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin Paul Guenther
Defensive Line Jacob Burney Jacob Burney
Linebackers Jim Haslett Jim Haslett
Cornerbacks Coach Daronte Jones Kevin Coyle
Safeties Coach Robert Livingston Robert Livingston
*** *** ***
Special Teams Coordinator Darrin Simmons Darrin Simmons
Assistant ST Brayden Coombs
*** *** ***
Strength and Conditioning ChipMorton Chip Morton
Asst Strength and Conditioning Jeff Friday Jeff Friday
*** *** ***
Offensive Asst/Asst QB Coach Dan Pitcher
Asst Wide Receivers Dan Pitcher
Asst Offensive Line / QC Robert Crouch Robert Crouch
Defensive Assistant Matt Raich
Asst Defensive Line / QC Marcus Lewis Marcus Lewis
Asst Linebackers / QC David Lippincott