Thursday, February 3, 2011
Bengals hire Jay Gruden
ESPN.com news services
The Cincinnati Bengals are turning to Jay Gruden to guide their offense, the team announced Thursday. Longtime offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski was fired on Monday.
The Bengals' decision to hire Gruden was first reported by Profootballtalk.com.
Coach Marvin Lewis said Thursday that Gruden, a native of Tiffin, Ohio, will help bring energy and an attacking style to the offense.
Gruden, the younger brother of ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, was an offensive assistant with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002 to 2008 while his brother was the coach.
He coached the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League in 2010 after leading the UFL's Florida Tuskers in 2009. He also has coached in the Arena Football League, winning AFL titles with the Orlando Predators in 1998 and 2000.
The 43-year-old Gruden was a quarterback at Louisville, throwing for more than 7,000 yards and 44 touchdowns from 1985 to 1988. He also was a quarterback in the AFL, guiding the Tampa Bay Storm to four titles between 1991 and 1996. He also played for the Predators, resigning as coach to return to the field. In the league's 20th anniversary, Gruden was named No. 4 on the AFL's list of its top 20 greatest players.
Bratkowski's firing came two weeks after quarterback Carson Palmer asked to be traded because of the franchise's futility. The Bengals have only two winning seasons in the past 20.
Bratkowski had been the offensive coordinator since 2001, two years before Lewis took over as coach. The Bengals reached the playoffs in 2005 with a balanced offense that featured Palmer and a core of young receivers. Knee and elbow injuries limited Palmer the next few years.
The Bengals made it back to the playoffs in 2009 after switching to a run-based offense that Lewis preferred. Their inability to throw the ball successfully in the playoffs prompted yet another philosophical switch -- Cincinnati signed receiver Terrell Owens at the start of training camp last July to team with receiver Chad Ochocinco.
The Bengals threw the ball a lot more and won a lot less, dropping 10 straight games. Owens complained about the coaching and said he wasn't getting the ball thrown his way enough. Running back Cedric Benson said the team made a mistake by going away from the run-first philosophy that got it to the playoffs in 2009.
The season ended with Lewis, whose contract was up, unsure whether he wanted to stay. After two days of discussions with owner Mike Brown, Lewis decided to stick around, despite no significant changes in how the franchise operates.
After Lewis agreed to return, Palmer told Brown he wanted out. Brown said he's not inclined to trade the franchise quarterback.
Cincinnati finished in the top 10 in rushing when it made the playoffs in 2009, but had the 26th-ranked passing game. That led the Bengals to draft tight end Jermaine Gresham and receiver Jordan Shipley and sign Owens, looking to throw the ball more effectively.
The passing game improved to 13th in the league last season, but the running game fell to 27th as the Bengals often found themselves throwing the ball to try to catch up.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.