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Frank Pollack’s departure hurts the Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals and their unofficial soon-to-be-hired head coach will need to find a replacement.

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Houston Texans 2010 Headshots Photo by NFL via Getty Images

This is one of those postings that may only interest me — AKA, I’m thinking about something and I answer it via a Chop Block post. There’s very little insight, story structure, or analysis here; just answering random musings from the couch during a stormy Cincinnati afternoon. There might not even be a conclusion; I’ll just stop when I’m finished.

When the Bengals let linebackers coach Jim Haslett, running backs coach Kyle Caskey, and tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes go, it seemed odd. Haslett and Hayes were working with minimal talent while negotiating significant injuries at their respective positions. Caskey, once viewed internally as an up-and-coming assistant, coached a running back that led the AFC in rushing (outpaced Derrick Henry by over 100 yards). Many assumed these changes were made by incoming-but-not-official head coach Zac Taylor; which makes sense because you want your head coach to hire his own staff.

Regardless, offensive line coach Frank Pollack was “saved”, according to one Jan. 11 report. Then, within a few days, he was out. What happened? At first, it appeared to be another incoming-but-not-official head coach Taylor move putting together his own staff. A follow-up report earlier this week suggested that it was Pollack that requested it.

Pollack, hired to replace Paul Alexander in 2018, helped develop one of the team’s best rushing offenses. As noted by the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Pollack and Lazor tore up the scheme for the running game in the offseason. It worked. Not only was the 4.69 yards per attempt the most by the Bengals since 1989, but also it was the largest year-over-year jump in franchise history.

It should be noted that while the 2018 rushing offense was a welcome improvement, the 2017 version was historically bad. Pollack earns credit for that improvement.

Quarterbacks facing pressure was comparably neutral between 2017 and 2018. Bengals quarterbacks faced pressure during 31.1% of their drop backs in 2017; this number increased to 32.7% in 2018; the number of sacks between 2017 (40) and 2018 (37) was minimal.

What’s impressive is that he accomplished these improvements (or the lack of decomposition) with minimal talent on the offensive line. According to Pro Football Focus’ grading system, Bobby Hart ranked 101st overall out of 131. Cordy Glenn, who Cincinnati gave up a No. 12 overall pick prior to the 2018 NFL draft, ranked 75th. Alex Redmond and Clint Boling ranked outside the top 45 among all offensive guards and Billy Price, the center Cincinnati drafted No. 21 overall, ranked 48th among 51 eligible centers.

It’s unknown whom the Bengals will sign to replace Pollack. Incoming-but-not-official head coach Taylor is reportedly interested in Bill Callahan, who has coached offensive lines in Washington (2015-18), Dallas (2012-14), New York (2008-2011), and Philadelphia (1995-97), while also serving the same role at several colleges.

While Callahan might serve as a good hire, Cincinnati still needs to focus on upgrading the level of talent on their offensive line — free agency, the draft, but also releasing some of the fat Cincinnati acquired over the last 3-4 years.