Thursday, January 9, 2014
Quick Takes: On Gruden, Hue and Bengals
By Coley Harvey
A few quick observations from Thursday's news that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is leaving the Cincinnati Bengals to become head coach of the Washington Redskins, and that he will be replaced as OC by Hue Jackson:
- With respect to Jackson being promoted, I like this move.
I like this move so much that, as you can see in this particular blog, I believe the Bengals' entire offense will benefit from the switch. It was clear after a third straight postseason failure that some change needed to come. In my opinion, personnel wasn't the issue. The scheme, mainly when it came to the postseason, was the issue. While Gruden had good game plans for the regular season, he just didn't draft up the same blueprints -- or have enough confidence in them, at least -- for the postseason. That really was the Bengals' only offensive problem. In some cases, the type of offensive ineptitude the Bengals showed in their past three playoff appearances would lead to calls for the head coach or offensive coordinator to be fired. (Actually, those calls have come anyway.) With owner Mike Brown in control, though, you knew head coach Marvin Lewis wouldn't be let go. But if a change needed to occur, Gruden might have made for the perfect scapegoat to get fired. For that reason, think of this particular offensive coordinator switch as a much cleaner change than the alternative.
- This change ought to promote an added emphasis on the run. In the past three playoff games, the Bengals handed off to their running backs on just 25 percent of their plays. That is far from balance. During this past regular season they were closer, running the ball with their running backs on 36.3 percent of all plays. With Jackson's reputation as a coach who likes to run, and another season of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard playing together, expect Cincinnati to get back, in both the regular and postseasons, to the running game.
- It was smart for the Bengals to promote from within. As is the case with any type of coaching change, the Bengals will need a little time to adapt to a new system. The good thing for them, though, is that with a coach who was already on staff, the terminology shouldn't need changing. The same types of calls and checks that were used under Gruden can remain under Jackson. Even though some things will get tweaked, the foundation of what the Bengals will try to get done shouldn't.
- Another reason it was smart to promote from within and to do it so quickly: Cincinnati could be losing a second assistant in the coming days or weeks, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. The longtime assistant could be headed to Minnesota or Tennessee as a head coach, and you have to imagine the Bengals would rather hire from outside for one position and not two. By adding Jackson right now, it gives them a chance to fully focus on Zimmer's replacement if and when that time comes.
- Lastly, I must say this about Jay. I like him. A lot. He's one of the calmest, funniest, most even-keeled personalities I've met in my brief time covering the NFL. Don't get me wrong, he can be an intense guy -- that's a gene that football coaches are apparently born with -- but he's not his brother. You'll see Jay Gruden get angry, but you won't see that same glare that former Tampa Bay and Oakland coach (and current ESPN analyst) Jon Gruden often had. I also genuinely believe Jay Gruden is a good coach. One of the things he'll have to do in Washington is make sure to trust his gut and instincts. The moment he second-guesses himself or starts overthinking, he's in trouble. It will be interesting following this chapter in his coaching career. I wish him all the best.