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Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Morning Stripes: Interview process begins

By Coley Harvey

The fact that Jay Gruden might actually be leaving the Cincinnati Bengals first hit me late Sunday afternoon inside the Bengals' locker room.

Just after chatting for about eight minutes with reporters who wanted all his insights on quarterback Andy Dalton's failures to the team's departure from the running game in the second half of the day's 27-10 playoff loss to the Chargers, the offensive coordinator walked around and thanked a few of his players. He was going to see them all again the next day when he held exit interviews with them, but in the first few minutes after the season-ending defeat, it seemed he wanted them to be sure they heard from him.

Specifically, I noticed Gruden casually stride over to receiver Marvin Jones' locker. The second-year wideout was pulling on a shirt when Gruden, holding a mostly-eaten slice of pizza, said in between bites, "You're a hell of a receiver." He wasn't the first person to offer Jones encouraging words that afternoon and he wasn't the last. But just seeing him offer his well wishes to a player he might be coaching against next year made it hit home.

Gruden really was probably making one of his final trips through the Bengals locker room.

Of course, anything can change in the coming weeks, but all signs are pointing to Gruden possibly getting a head-coaching job elsewhere as his interview period officially begins. According to reports, he talked with the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday and ESPN's Ed Werder said Gruden will be meeting with Washington on Wednesday.

Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer also has been linked to interviews for head-coaching vacancies. He's expected to visit with Minnesota and Washington this week himself, and a third team next week.

Now that Gruden and Zimmer are being courted, the Bengals' movers and shakers are formulating their own backup plans in the event one or both assistants leave. One likely on-staff replacement for Gruden could be running backs coach Hue Jackson, whose name has come up as a possible candidate for head-coaching vacancies. Before coming on staff in Cincinnati, he was the Oakland Raiders' head coach.

As we get rolling with Wednesday's Morning Stripes, we start with a look at Jay Gruden, the job applicant: