Coaches have the odd distinction of catching too much blame when things go wrong, and perhaps too much credit too much credit when things go right. Unlike a number of other NFL franchises, the Bengals' coaches have a higher responsibility than most, as they dive into the scouting side of operations more so than other staffs making their job a bit more intensive.
With the Bengals grabbing 12 wins in 2015, the coaching staff had a big role in the success of the team. Our contributors weighed in and nominated the coach they felt most worthy of this year's Coach of the Year, but we're also taking your votes and comments to determine the winner. Share your vote and sound off on who you think is the most worthy of the award!
Cody Tewmey: Paul Guenther, defensive coordinator.
Alberto Luque (AKA muertasdeatenas): Paul Guenther. Last season many went hard against him and rightfully so. But what could Mike Zimmer have done with all the injuries and Geno Atkins not being fully back after an ACL tear. While the game against Arizona hurt, as it was one of the defensive unit's worst performances of the year, the group was solid to outstanding throughout most of the year.
Alex Healey: While I feel that the staff did a great job as a whole this year, there were some shortcomings. Marvin Lewis needed to smooth the edges of his more fiery players, and he failed to do so. Hue Jackson, for all of his creativity, got a little too creative at times for my taste, and he never figured out how to get the running game on track. Coming into the season, Paul Guenther was the coach who instilled the least confidence in me. The atrocious pass rush in 2014 along with giving up a pedestrian 21.5 points per game left me feeling uneasy. 42 sacks and 17.4 points per game later, I'm very glad to have him on the staff. A lot of you can will attribute a lot of this to the return of the real Geno Atkins, but his return didn't do ALL of that. Especially when the defense was without its leader for the first six weeks of the season.
Kyle Phelps: The obvious answer here seems like Hue Jackson, right? I mean, Hue built an offense that, to some extent, survived injuries to Andy Dalton and Tyler Eifert. Despite the struggles of the running game, everything worked out great in the end, right?
I don't think so. I thank Hue Jackson for everything he did in Cincinnati, but the real coach of the year was Ken Zampese, the quarterbacks coach. His work with Andy Dalton this season helped to create one of the most impressive quarterback transformations I've ever seen. Dalton threw 25 touchdowns to only seven interceptions, then AJ McCarron came in and performed similarly despite a completely different approach to the passing game and not starting off all that well. I would have picked Zampese for Unsung Hero of the Year, but his efforts were rewarded with a promotion to Offensive Coordinator position. I don't think anyone on the entire team had as impressive of a season as Zampese did this year.
Scott Schulze: When Mike Zimmer left for the Vikings a couple years ago, reactions were mixed as to whether Paul Guenther would be able to replicate the top-10 finishes that Zimmer's defense had generated over his last three seasons in Cincinnati. In the 2015 season, Guenther's defense finished 2nd in the NFL in points allowed, which is the best finish for a Bengals' defense in that category, ever. Not bad for the second year coordinator.
Rebecca Toback: Hue Jackson gets my vote. We saw this year so many teams completely fail when their backup quarterback came in to play (see: Cowboys, Browns, Ravens, Saints). When AJ McCarron took the field for the Bengals, he wasn't bad. That's impressive for McCarron, and Zampese, but it's also impressive that Jackson was able to continue calling plays that worked for McCarron. Beyond that, the Bengals were innovative on offense (sometimes too innovative), but there's a reason Jackson was a top head coaching candidate this offseason and the Bengals will greatly miss him.
Scott Bantel: Ken Zampese – Hue Jackson deserves a lot of consideration here as well, but look at what Zampese did this year. He had Dalton, a guy many of fans wanted cut, playing at an MVP level for 12 weeks until he broke his thumb. Then he got AJ McCarron up to speed in one week and had him playing well enough to beat the number one seed in the AFC (Denver) on the road and if not for an epic collapse, would have lead the Bengals to their most memorable playoff comeback and first playoff victory in 25 years.
Jason Marcum: Hue Jackson. He built one of the NFL's best offenses and made Andy Dalton look like an elite quarterback. While the offense took a step back with Dalton out, Jackson still did a good job calling the offense and allowing AJ McCarron to utilize his strength while masking his weaknesses.
Dadio McDuck: Paul Guenther.
Anthony Cosenza: Those who have read my work on Cincy Jungle and/or heard me on Inside the Jungle over the years know I'm very critical of Marvin Lewis. However, when the head coach leads the team to a franchise-tying 12 wins in the regular season to go along with a fifth-straight postseason berth and another division title, I have to give the veteran coach some credit. To boot, he achieved this and the team's best overall postseason performance in his tenure with a backup quarterback for the final four-plus games of the season (including the Wild Card round). I'm still not convinced Lewis is the guy to lead the Bengals to the promised land, as evidenced by his 0-7 postseason record in 13 seasons as the head man, but I thought this was one of the better years of his tenure.