Can such a thing as coaching stability exist in the NFL anymore?
When you look around and see so many teams firing coaches after hiring the previous offseason, or letting them go in down years that followed postseason trips, it's hard to answer the above question with a resounding "Yes." But when you look at the Cincinnati Bengals and the success they have been attempting to build the past six seasons or so, you realize that it is possible to obtain.
With a little patience.
Remember a few years ago, just after the 2010 season that ended with a 4-12 record? It appeared that head coach Marvin Lewis was gone, and the team was about to undergo a massive rebuilding. Much like the Vikings and Redskins, that 4-12 season came on the heels of one of the franchise's best seasons in nearly two decades. Yet still, change, for many, was needed.
But nope, owner Mike Brown was content on staying the course with Lewis. That same offseason, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was hired, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green were drafted and the rest, as they say, is history.
Patience and stability appear to be at the foundation of the Bengals' current three-season run of playoff appearances, and they played a role in helping the organization win its third AFC North title earlier this year. One could go as far as to argue that without patience in Lewis and the stability that sixth-year defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has brought, it would have been difficult for a defense that lost its best players to injury to end up finishing this past regular season as the NFL's third-ranked unit. No Bengals defense had ranked in the top 3 since 1983.
Amid the coaching frenzy that has already begun in locker rooms around them, the Bengals are being confronted with the real possibility that their stability could be tested in the coming weeks. Gruden and Zimmer, and even running backs coach Hue Jackson, a former head coach himself, could very well be candidates for the slew of vacancies that have popped open since Sunday. If one or more leave, the stability the Bengals have built could begin to break.
As we begin this Tuesday edition of the Morning Stripes, we start with a couple more looks at Cincinnati's stable coaching ranks:
Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com writes specifically about the stability Zimmer's six-year tenure, about half of Lewis' 11 years, has brought the Bengals. The coordinator also discusses how he handles this yearly juggle of preparing for the postseason, while blocking out the rumors of him potentially being considered for open head-coaching jobs.
The "S-word," stability, was the crux of this item from Fox Sports Ohio's Kevin Goheen. Like we mentioned up top, as the NFL's version of "silly season" has begun, he argues the Bengals are showing that patience can pay off. Patience can be its own gamble, but it's one that has so far worked out for Cincinnati.
While the Bengals have dramatically stepped up their on-field product across the latter years of Lewis' tenure and are hosting their first home playoff game since 2009, they still are having trouble convincing the masses to come out and see them. As of late Monday afternoon, more than 10,000 tickets remain to Sunday's first-round playoff game between the Bengals and Chargers. Team executive Jeff Berding told reporters the Bengals' ticket offices will be open between 9 a.m.-7 p.m. New Year's Day. Also in an effort to get fans out Sunday, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley sat in with Lewis during his weekly news conference to push the city to come out to the game. Here's the Cincinnati Enquirer's take on the playoff ticket battle the Bengals are currently fighting. A local blackout could come if a sellout isn't reached.
Finally, speaking of Cranley, here's a look from the San Diego 6 television station at what's at stake for him and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.