Duke Tobin has had easier beginnings to an offseason as the Bengals’ Director of Player Personnel. When Cincinnati decided to part ways with head coach Marvin Lewis after 16 seasons, Tobin was included on the search panel for the team’s next head coach along with Katie Blackburn, her husband Troy and Blackburn’s brother Paul Brown.
Tobin is entering his first offseason as the head of the Bengals’ war room without Lewis, a man he had become very familiar with as a coach. It was fair to wonder how that would impact how he and his scouts went about their business at this year’s Senior Bowl considering the team is still without most of its coaching staff.
“I don’t know that it will be dramatically different. Most of the stuff is on tape,” Tobin told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “With scouting, it doesn’t matter what staff you have. Everyone is looking for the same thing. They want guys that love football. There won’t be any coach that walks into our building that asks for somebody that doesn’t like football. They want aggressive guys. They want instinctive guys. They want guys physically able to hold up.”
The Bengals scouting department consists of less scouts than the number of fingers on your hands. Their coaching staff is an integral part of their draft process, and right around this time is when they start getting truly acquainted with the draft class. There aren’t any choices being made that could lock them in a corner later. Tobin isn’t in the business of forcing prospects onto anyone.
“We’ve always felt that way. And we’ll have ideas about what’s needed as well. And we’ll come to an agreement on staffing levels at different positions as a group,” Tobin said. “We’re not looking to bring somebody in and restrict them in any way. And so when you get a whole new staff, sometimes you get new ideas and new thoughts that are worthwhile. That’s part of the process we’re going through right now. We certainly welcome new thoughts and new ideas and we’re flexible to incorporate those.”
Hobson also noted that Tobin would only say that the coaching search is “still on going,” which probably has more to do with the team hoping to avoid breaking any of the NFL’s stupid rules about announcing coaching hirings in the playoffs. Tobin also gave some updates into how the team is approaching improving this team during the offseason.
“The game is getting faster, so on defense, you know, I think we’re going to be looking for speed, which we always are. You’re never looking for slow, but you know that’s going to be a focus of what we do,” Tobin said. “We want guys that can run, that can cover. The game is becoming a passing game, so you want guys that can cover on the two-back levels, that can run, that have some flexibility to them, that have a feel in coverage because that’s such a vital component of the game that we play right now.
“And you’re always looking for guys on the lines, guys that are quick twitch, explosive, fast, sudden, strong, guys that can gain position on opponents out of their stance. We’re always looking on both lines of scrimmage. You just can never have enough big guys. We’ll be focused there; we’ll be focused on speed on defense.”
As they should be. For the Bengals’ brass to not realize just how bad their linebackers have been the past few seasons would be an unprecedented level of tone deafness. They lack second level defenders who can close out on quicker running backs and receivers in space, and it is a big reason why their defense struggles to get off the field. Their current set of linebackers would be perfect for stopping teams who setup with a fullback and running back in the I-formation most of the time, but offenses just don’t function that way anymore. It is about time that the Bengals caught on to that. Tobin also talked about their commitment to Andy Dalton.
“We’re very comfortable with Andy,” Tobin said. “We think he’s got a number of years left. We feel like we can win with him. But with any position group, we don’t just throw away the whole draft board at a group just because we’re satisfied with who we have. We’ll evaluate them and look at them and see if there’s an opportunity to add a guy at every position.”
There have been plenty of rumors that the Bengals could bring in a guy like Ryan Tannehill at quarterback and move on from Dalton. The team could cut ties with Dalton without suffering any dead cap this offseason. One could see why the team would do this considering if they don’t they’d either have to pay him a pretty substantial contract and commit to him for a foreseeable future or lose him without any compensation via free agency.
With a new head coach coming in, anything is possible, but the fact Tobin doesn’t completely shut the door on improving at the position leaves hope the team could at least bring in some actual competition or a backup who could keep the team competitive. After all, it wouldn’t help to broadcast at this point that the team would be moving on from Dalton even if Tobin felt that way. It could really backfire especially if Cincinnati ultimately doesn’t find a replacement. Expect the team to be completely behind Dalton until they aren’t.