Saturday, January 06, 2001

Bengals hope more coaches helps

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Bengals' coaching shuffle and increase in number of assistants signal the club is trying a new approach to improve its weaknesses, team president Mike Brown said Friday.

        “We're going through change,” he told The Enquirer. “They aren't as dramatic or abrupt as some people would like, but they are real changes.”

        Brown saw a failed passing game and has created a quarterback think tank to bolster the offense.

        Brown and his coaches saw a hole in the young secondary, so they added another defensive backs coach to speed up the growth process.

        The Bengals, who Thursday hired cornerbacks coach Kevin Coyle and offensive assistant John Garrett, are adding coaches at their weakest position groups.

        Garrett, a former Bengals assistant and wide receivers coach, was Arizona's quarterbacks coach the past two seasons before being fired. He joins demoted Cincinnati offensive coordinator Ken Anderson, also a former quarterbacks coach — not to mention a former quarterback himself — as coaches

        with expertise in the passing game.

        And based on Dick LeBeau's short list of offensive coordinator candidates, Cincinnati's new coordinator also will have NFL experience as a passing-game coach. LeBeau has interviewed Colts quarterbacks coach Bruce Arians — Peyton Manning's only NFL position coach — and plans to ask permission to talk with Philadelphia quarterbacks coach Brad Childress once the Eagles are eliminated from the playoffs.

        Childress has coached league MVP candidate Donovan McNabb in his first two NFL seasons.

        “We're going to do some things we haven't done before and see if they can help,” Brown said. “That's particularly true with getting the passing game going.

        “We think more ideas will help. More teaching will help. It's a gamble with not so much downside as a great potential upside.”

        The Bengals will give their quarterbacks more attention to resurrect the NFL's last-ranked passing game and the career and confidence of Akili Smith.

        Smith, who directed an offense that scored a franchise-low 185 points, was drafted one position behind McNabb. But while McNabb soared with the Eagles, Smith lost his job after 10 games this season to 11-year journeyman Scott Mitchell.

        LeBeau also reportedly will speak with Oregon offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, who coached Smith in college.

        After the season, Smith said that while he didn't blame Anderson for his poor performance, Anderson was pulled in too many directions and didn't have enough time to coach quarterbacks.

        Anderson began calling plays when head coach Bruce Coslet resigned after Game 3. The Bengals promoted LeBeau, the defensive coordinator, to head coach, but didn't replace his position on the staff.

        Cincinnati had only 11 assistants, one of the NFL's smallest staffs. With Coyle, Garrett and an offensive coordinator coming on board — joining the returning 11 — the Bengals will have 14 assistants, the same as 23 NFL teams.

        Garrett will break down opponents' film, freeing other offensive assistants to spend more time with their players. The Bengals' corps of young wide receivers — three rookies and two second-year players — complained that receivers coach Steve Mooshagian didn't have enough time to work with them.

        Coyle will share secondary coaching duties with returning defensive backs coach Ray Horton, who becomes the defensive backfield/safeties coach.

        Coyle will be responsible for the cornerbacks. He is a former defensive coordinator for new Bengals defensive coordinator Mark Duffner when Duffner was head coach at Holy Cross and Maryland.

        The Bengals were ranked 23rd in the league in pass defense and have several young cornerbacks, including projected starters Robert Bean and Mark Roman.

        Like his mentor Duffner, Coyle talks about how to find the “right buttons to push” and using different teaching methods to help players learn.

        The Bengals are now one of about eight teams who have two defensive backfield coaches, a trend in the NFL to counter a series of rules changes that have benefitted the passing game.


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