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REVIEW: Former coaches leave and candidates emerge

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Cincinnati Bengals v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

GOOD BYE PAUL AND JAMES

Marvin Lewis watched two former coaches, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and wide receivers coach James Urban, inked deals with new teams on Friday. Guenther joined Jon Gruden, who signed a Dr. Evil-like 10-year contract worth $100 million in Oakland to coordinate the team’s defense. Urban left his cushion gig with A.J. Green, for Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens.

Guenther, whose defense never held a top-ten ranking in four seasons as Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator, had actually progressively declined since peaking in 2015.

Paul Guenther Defense

SEASON YDS RANKING SCORING RANKING
SEASON YDS RANKING SCORING RANKING
2014 359.3 22nd 21.5 12th
2015 340.8 11th 17.4 2nd
2016 350.8 17th 19.7 8th
2017 339.1 18th 21.8 16th

There are plenty of internal and external candidates to replace him -- we’re going to list a few names and not pretend that we knew who the Bengals were considering after they announce their decision. There are familiar names like Jack Del Rio (deep connection with Marvin Lewis), Jim Haslett (linebackers coach), and Kevin Coyle (former coordinator in Miami with two stints as defensive backs coach in Cincinnati). We’ve had one confirmed outside candidate so far.

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

THE BENGALS CHAT TERYL AUSTIN

Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, currently under contract with Detroit, interviewed with the Cincinnati Bengals for their vacant coordinator position late this week. Austin, Detroit’s defensive coordinator since 2014, interviewed for the Lions head coaching position earlier this week, but is viewed as a long shot. Regardless, his record as a coordinator is spotty.

“The Lions had one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2014, then struggled the next season after Ndamukong Suh left in free agency,” writes Dave Birkett with the Detroit Free Press. “This season, they finished third in the league in takeaways but 21st in points allowed.”

Writes MLive.com :

When the Lions hired Caldwell as their head coach, he tabbed Austin to be his defensive coordinator. Austin had never scaled that highly in the NFL before, but was an immediate hit. His defense ranked second in the league that year, and was among the 10 best rush defenses of all time.

But Austin lost Ndamukong Suh the following offseason, and the defense has never been the same. It fell to 18th the following two years, then 27th this year. His secondary was terrific in 2017, with Glover Quin and Darius Slay blooming into stars under his tutelage. (Austin was a defensive back himself, and rose through the ranks coaching that position.)

“As for the Lions, it would undoubtedly be a bit of a loss,” writes SB Nation’s Pride of Detroit. “Austin had once built a top-five defense back in 2014 with the help of players like Ndamukong Suh and DeAndre Levy. He wasn’t able to recreate the same success with a much less talented roster, but he is still highly regarded by both his players and his peers in the NFL.”

It’s probable that Austin would find greater success coaching Cincinnati’s defense, namely because he has Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Vontaze Burfict, and William Jackson III leading a talented defense. And with a background as a defensive backs coach in Seattle (2003-2006), Arizona (2007-2009), and Baltimore (2011-2013), he can further the development with players like Darqueze Dennard, while coaching up Dre Kirkpatrick.

Cincinnati Bengals 2011 Headshots Photo by NFL via Getty Images

JAMES URBAN AND HIS HEAVY PHILADELPHIA CONNECTIONS

Former Bengals wide receivers coach James Urban signed a contract in Baltimore to become the Ravens next quarterbacks coach. Seriously, James? You have young kids like Tyler Boyd and John Ross to develop, and, oh yea... A.J. f***ing Green, and you throw it away for the elite Joe Flacco? Urban, who has been an internal offensive coordinator candidate when Jay Gruden and Hue Jackson accepted their respective head coaching promotions, obviously views this opportunity as a path towards eventual promotions as a coordinator, if not head coach.

Why would he choose Baltimore? Well, it would seem clear. There’s a significant, and obvious, coaching connection — isn’t that always the case? Between 2006-07, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, and now Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban, served together on the same Eagles coaching staff in Philadelphia.

“Playing the Bengals twice a year, we’ve seen what a good job James does,” Harbaugh said in a statement via the Baltimore Sun. “He’s highly regarded around the league, including by [general manager Ozzie Newsome] and Marty. We were all excited when he became available.”

Urban is excited for the opportunity.

“From the outside, it has always appeared to me that the Baltimore Ravens are the preeminent organization in the National Football League,” Urban stated via BaltimoreRavens.com. “They are first-class in every way. I have admired and respected Coach Harbaugh for many years. I was with him as a very young coach when first getting into this league – seeing him as a special teams coordinator and a secondary coach. Then I competed against him on the other side for seven years while with the Cincinnati Bengals.”

In the meantime, he’s grateful for his time in Cincinnati.

“Marvin took a chance on me. Give him credit,” said Urban via Bengals.com. “They were starting over (in 2011) and he put that staff together. This is a great place to work. I’ve got so much respect for Mike (Brown) and Katie and Troy (Blackburn) and the job that Duke (Tobin) does and doesn’t get enough credit. It’s a first-class place.”

As for Cincinnati, the next wide receivers coach will have an opportunity to develop kids like Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and Alex Erickson, while leaning on veterans like A.J. Green and Brandon LaFell. It seems like an ideal gig, right? The Cincinnati Enquirer is promoting Brayden Coombs — who recently served as an assistant to Darrin Simmons on special teams, Kevin Coyle in the secondary, and worked as a defensive quality control coach in 2017 — as a possible candidate. If the question is internal promotions, Dan Pitcher, who joined the Bengals as an assistant to James Urban in 2016 could enter the conversation. However, our only true qualification for that mention is related to his coaching history as Urban’s assistant for two years.

Bill Lazor’s offense still needs an offensive line coach, wide receivers coach, and a quarterbacks coach, whom Lazor had hoped Urban would fill. Kyle Caskey and Jon Hayes are the only confirmed offensive assistant coaches entering the weekend.