There was a time when Paul Alexander was highly regarded not only as a member of the Bengals’ coaching staff but as an NFL coach. He was long established among the team before they hired Marvin Lewis as their head coach in 2003, and for most of his tenure in Cincinnati, Alexander put together some of the better offensive lines in the NFL.
But his recent road to ruin seemingly started when the team stopped giving him incredible talent to work with. Alexander and the Bengals parted ways this winter, two years after the team allowed offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and offensive guard Kevin Zeitler walk in free agency.
Alexander failed to get anything out of first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi or second-round pick Jake Fisher, and center Russell Bodine never managed to improve on his rocky rookie season. This is something one well-known former Bengals offensive lineman thinks could’ve been due to poor practices.
“There were times I thought ‘I’m a 66-year-old man, I might be able to get through [Alexander’s] practice,’” former Bengals offensive lineman and current team radio analyst Dave Lapham said on Lance Mcalister’s radio show. “They stood around killing grass so much... These kids are in their 20’s and he’s not doing anything with them. He’s not pushing them at all, and I’ll tell you. I know I couldn’t last [Frank Pollack’s] practice now. I wouldn’t last 15 minutes.”
Alexander accepted a job with the Cowboys shortly after his departure from Cincinnati during this past offseason, but he was relieved of his duties during the Cowboys bye in Week 8. It seems as though even being surrounded by one of the most talented units in football wasn’t enough to save Alexander’s job.
It really was telling that the Cowboys decided so quickly that things weren’t working out with Alexander — yet it took the Bengals two seasons of terrible offensive line play to begrudgingly move on from him.
It’s hard to argue with Lapham’s statements as you could tell the offensive line, despite being touted by Alexander as tough guys, would often easily get overpowered routinely.
Ogbuehi looks like an absolute bust, but Alexander also stood tall in support for Bodine who was one of the worst starting centers in the NFL.
Many will tout Pollack, Alexander’s replacement as the offensive line coach for the improved play in that area, but you could easily argue that the upgrades in personnel also have had a significant impact. The team acquired left tackle Cordy Glenn in the offseason, and Bodine’s departure for the Buffalo Bills opened up the opportunity for a fresh talent in Billy Price to take the reigns. While Price has been injured for most of the season thus far, Trey Hopkins filled in more than adequately, despite never playing the position long-term before this season.
The biggest criticism you can give Pollack is for his stubbornness to not try and shuffle the offensive line. He seems willing to let Alex Redmond work through his mistakes at right guard, which there have been many of so far this season. And he’s essentially strapping the talented Christian Westerman to the bench, just like Alexander had.
With that said, it’s clear Pollack is doing more with these guys than Alexander did. And you have to wonder if Alexander could have this same offensive line playing at the same level, or if he just be wasting their talents while killing grass.