CINCINNATI – It didn’t take long for Marvin Lewis to find a replacement for Jay Gruden.
Former NFL head coach and current Bengals assistant Hue Jackson was formally introduced as the team's new offensive coordinator at a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Shortly after news broke that Gruden was set to sign a five-year deal to serve as the head coach of the Washington Redskins, social media buzzed with rumors that Jackson would be next in line to direct the Bengals' offense.
By Thursday afternoon the Bengals organization confirmed those rumors and officially announced the longtime NFL and college assistant was the right man for the job.
“It’s an honor to be Bengals offensive coordinator, and to keep working with Marvin and Mike Brown and the Brown family,” Jackson said in a press release. “I thank them all for this opportunity. Our goal is to be the best, to be the one team hoisting that trophy when it’s all over, and that’s what I’ll be working for every day.”
Jackson, whose 13 NFL seasons include a head-coaching assignment and three offensive coordinator postings, was picked to the lead an offense that was among the best in the NFL during the 2013 regular season. He has spent five seasons, including the last two, familiarizing himself with the roster as a member of the Cincinnati coaching staff.
“I am very excited to move forward with Hue,” Marvin Lewis said of Jackson, who served this past season as Bengals running backs coach. “Hue’s expertise in all aspects of football and coaching is very wide.”
Lewis credited the depth of his coaching staff for being able to transition from Gruden to Jackson so seamlessly.
“We are blessed to have a staff that allows us to promote from within,” he said. “It keeps some of the continuity with our offensive team, yet we get new direction and fire from an aggressive and innovative coaching mind.”
Of course, there’s a downside to having great coaches – eventually someone will lure them away.
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Gruden was one of those guys.
After taking over the team's offensive coordinator position in 2011, Gruden helped mold the Bengals into a dynamic West Coast-style offense that features a plethora of young talent. Cincinnati improved in points per game during his tree stint in the Queen City, going from 18th to 12th to sixth.
They were the NFL's 10th-ranked offense in total yards in 2013.
Members of the Bengals' offense accounted for seven Pro Bowl selections during Gruden's time in Cincinnati. He was vital in the development of signal-caller Andy Dalton, a 2011 second-round draft pick out of TCU.
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is also a hot commodity on the coaching market. He is one of three finalists for the job with the Minnesota Vikings and has been linked to the positions in Detroit and Tennessee.
Jackson isn’t unfamiliar with the coaching carousel, either. He has held various positions during his career, including stints as offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders.
He was promoted to head coach of the Raiders in 2011, leading a team that missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker after tying for the best record in the AFC West. The team’s 8-8 record that year is tied for the best by any Raiders club since 2002.
Jackson returned to the Bengals in 2012 after coaching the team’s wide receivers from 2004-06.
This past season he oversaw the development of running back Giovani Bernard, who logged the second-most yards from scrimmage (1,209) in a season by any Bengals rookie. Bernard's eight touchdowns (five rushing, three receiving) were the most by a Cincinnati rookie since 1997.
Bernard is one of five players up for the NFL’s Rookie of the Year Award. If he wins the award, he'll be added to the impressive list of award winners coached by Jackson.
The list of Pro Bowlers coached by Jackson includes wide-outs Chad Johnson and T. J. Houshmandzadeh with the Bengals; quarterback Joe Flacco with Baltimore (Jackson was the Ravens’ quarterback coach); and quarterback Carson Palmer at Southern California (Jackson was USC’s offensive coordinator).
A native of Los Angeles, Jackson played quarterback at the University of the Pacific in 1985-86. He later spent 16 years coaching at the college level before moving to the NFL in 2001 with the Redskins.