In 30 years, the Bengals’ freshly hired defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has coached a lot of football. In his three decades worth of experience, he’s been a defensive coordinator for 10% of that time, and hasn’t been one for 25 years.
It’s been a long time coming for the New York native to see his extensive work as an assistant pay off in the form of a meaningful promotion. Opportunity is not congruent for everyone, it doesn’t even knock for everyone listening. The grind is something Anarumo has a better grasp on than most do, and his patience has now paid off.
Call it nepotism, cronyism, whatever you like. Anarumo wasn’t the first choice by head coach Zac Taylor and the Bengals’ organization for the job, that much is obvious. It certainly helped Anarumo’s case that his first promotion at the NFL level was granted by a former colleague of four years.
“He built a great relationship with his players and then was able to demand the best from them,” Taylor told reporters on Thursday. “As a quarterback coach that went against his DBs and then as a coordinator that went against his defense, I always saw great detail in the technique and the back end always did a great job of communication. That starts with the DBs coach and then the coordinator, when he was the coordinator. I always thought the world of Lou. When you’re on the opposite side of the ball and you go against him every single day, it was clear cut he was a good teacher, a good communicator and sound with his scheme when he became a coordinator.”
The Bengals fired their offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator in the middle of back-to-back seasons in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The 2015 Miami Dolphins did it in the span of seven weeks. It just so happens that the interim replacements, Taylor and Anarumo, find themselves in nearly the same roles half a decade later with another franchise. Anarumo valued that brief working experience.
“We would talk all the time.” Anarumo said. “He’d come down to my office and, ‘OK, what are they trying to do with this coverage?’ Or, ‘what’s this defense?’ I would go to his office and, you know, kind of go back and forth about the different schemes and how, ‘Hey Zac, how did you see this? Where’s the quarterback’s reads?’ That kind of stuff helps. It helps the players, it helps you as a coach and Zac has always been a detailed guy. He’s always been a guy that’s too the letter of the law in terms of staying on his guys and just an overall great guy and really polished and it’s a great opportunity to get a chance to work with him again.”
Anarumo fits the bill of what Taylor’s hires this offseason have been. Nearly all of the newly hired assistants have previously worked with Taylor in some capacity, but as an offensive coach, it was easier bringing assistants from that side of the ball. Anarumo and Taylor were known associates of the past, but it took nearly three weeks for the hire to happen. Taylor is not concerned about the timing though.
“Again, it’s just about the right people. There’s plenty of really good coaches out there, we just had to find the right one that fit what we wanted to do, and we found that with Lou.”
With Anarumo in the fold, that leaves just a couple more vacancies on Taylor’s staff that need to be filled. But the NFL waits for nobody. Despite essentially a complete overhaul of the staff, the Bengals’ scouting process has not changed. Taylor’s staff will now be charged to accelerate their roster evaluations to prepare themselves for the draft circuit that’s already begun and will kick into high gear next week at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Bengals have their defensive coordinator in Anarumo, now the real work begins.