Tem Lukabu is the Bengals’ newest linebackers coach.
It is a pretty important hire considering how bad the Bengals have been at that position over the past few seasons. Cincinnati is hoping Lukabu can help modernize the position, as it is painfully obvious they need to drastically improve.
Lukabu seems like the man for the job. He has spent time under some of the brightest minds in coaching circles. He has worked under Greg Schiano, the Patriots’ newest defensive coordinator. Schiano gave Lukabu his start in coaching at Rutgers and brought him to the NFL when he became the coach of the Buccaneers.
“[Schiano is] the ultimate detail coach,” Lukabu told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “That’s why it’s not surprising he’s in New England because they’re obviously so detail oriented. He’ll overturn every rock until he gets the best game plan. He’s great at information gathering with every I dotted and T crossed.”
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some great minds like (Schiano), Chip Kelly, Kyle Shanahan. I’ve had the opportunity to be in all three (defensive) rooms as an assistant throughout my career. I have an overall view of defense in the NFL and that will serve me well.”
That experience should serve Lukabu well with this linebacking group. He has a nice mix of veterans and young guys. It is also reasonable to expect the Bengals should be making a few additions via free agency and/or the draft.
As it stands now, his young guys include Jordan Evans and Malik Jefferson. Evans has showed some promise, but he has gotten eaten up in the passing game when asked to play. Jefferson remains an unknown as he barely played a handful of defensive snaps in his rookie season, despite the massive amounts of injuries at the position.
If Lukabu can get anything out of those guys, he’d probably say he did his job.
“I would say the ultimate measuring stick is the guys,” Lukabu said. “The players have to believe that you’re there to help them get better. Help them reach their goals and, I’m going to sound cocky, but if you went around and asked guys that I’ve been around and coached, they’ll tell you that’s what they would get out of me.”
His players aren’t the only people he impresses. He even made impressions on the coaching staff during his time Mississippi State.
“He came from the NFL before he came to Mississippi State. He was the same way. He had NFL eyes,” said MSU defensive lineman Gerri Green. “He knew what those guys did and he kind of helped us in those ways. He stayed after guys, held guys accountable and everything. Our linebackers loved him.”
It is clear that Lukabu is going to hold these linebackers to a high standard as he tries to get the most out of them. He is taking over for Jim Haslett, who was a former head coach and defensive coordinator, so you could say there was a downgrade at experience.
However, you can tell that Lukabu has a clear vision of what he wants for these guys. That vision doesn’t include turning them all into light coverage guys.
It is rare you see a coach looking forward to the next trend for offenses. So much of the job as a defensive coach in the NFL is reacting to the newest offensive trends, but many times that can be like trying to kick water up hill. By maintaining a balance it makes it hard for offenses to dictate what is happening on the field.
Lukabu can probably attribute some of his success and his wisdom to his late father. Khabouji N’Zaji Lukabu, who was the first UN diplomat of the African nation of Zaire, which was later changed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He served even as the country went through a civil war. He set quite the example of how to make a life for yourself for his son.
Hopefully, he can set an example during this new chapter of his life in Cincinnati.