The Cincinnati Bengals were Super Bowl contenders in 2015 in large part to their explosive attack under offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Jackson, who recently accepted a head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns, had evolved Andy Dalton into a legitimate starting quarterback and created schemes around the talents of A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert while still implementing a strong rushing attack with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.
Unfortunately the Bengals were part of a colossal debacle in the Wild Card round against division opponent Pittsburgh Steelers that led to their elimination from the 2015 NFL playoffs. Most memorably, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict delivered a merciless hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown that resulted in a three-game suspension to begin the 2016 NFL season.
As if losing a playoff game to a division rival wasn’t enough – especially since Cincinnati hasn’t been victorious in the playoffs since 1991 – offensive coordinator Hue Jackson informed long-time friend and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis that he would be accepting a head coaching position with inner-state rival Cleveland Browns.
The separation came as a bit of a surprise to many as Jackson was seen as Lewis’ successor when he retired. Lewis’ contract extension with the team almost included Jackson becoming to eventual head coach in two years. However, Bengals owner Mike Brown was reluctant to pen Jackson as the head coach two years in advance and so Jackson headed to Cleveland.
Enter Ken Zampese.
Zampese, who was interviewed for the Bengals’ offensive coordinator gig twice before, steps in to assume Jackson’s role as the offensive genius. Prior to the new position he was the quarterback coach since 2003 – the year Lewis was named head coach.
On the Zampese promotion –
“I was excited,”Gruden said. “He deserves it. Kenny helped me get to where I am today. He was a big help for us, one of the best quarterback coaches in the league. He’s now getting a deserved opportunity and he’s gonna do great with Andy (Dalton).”
Gurden also spoke about Zampese’s detail-oriented style and how that will benefit the Bengals team as they move forward.
“He’s the most detailed guy I’ve ever seen. For my lack of detail, he made up for it,” Gruden said laughing, via Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson. “He cleaned it up for me and he did a great job with Andy.”
In Hobson’s same article, Zampese mentioned similarities he and Dalton share that result in their chemistry.
“We’re both driven and hungry. That’s probably the most important thing. It’s not the style; it’s more the hunger and drive. It’s the fight in the dog,” Zampese said. “There’s a high level of trust. I know myself I value his style, I understand his style. I love him and his wife. We just have a terrific relationship. That allows you to get the most out of guys when you have a real good bond with guys.”
Zampese has been part of the Cincinnati Bengals culture that makes it such an attractive destination for players and staff. He understands Marvin Lewis, arguably better than most others in the organization as he’s been by his side for over a decade. He’s witnessed the transition from Bob Bratkowski-to-Jay Gruden and Jay Gruden-to-Hue Jackson but now it’s his turn to indent his name on the list of Bengals offensive coordinators that find success in the under the system of Marvin Lewis.
Zampese is confident he has a head start as a coordinator based on his already strong relationship with franchise quarterback Andy Dalton. The two enjoy each others company and have spent time with the others’ families as well which makes work much easier for Zampese. Dalton and Lewis believe his experience with the former second-round pick will only benefit the team.
“The thing that’s different now is that I’m not learning a new person,” Dalton said. “Zamp’s been my quarterback coach since I’ve been here. We already have that great relationship. I understand how he thinks and does things. For him, it’s the same thing for me. I’m not learning the new style of a guy. That makes things easier because we’ve been together for a while now.”
Head coach Marvin Lewis also sees Zampese’s promotion as a positive for Dalton’s growth as a quarterback stating “Our quarterback continues to blossom with his own leadership and his personality. Kenny provides a new space for him to continue to do that.”
As the Bengals lost key players such as wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency, Zampese will certainly have his work cut out in finding new schemes to assure that pro bowlers A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert’s effectiveness won’t be diminished. However, it seems safe to say that the Cincinnati Bengals are confident that Zampese will thrive as the team’s new offensive coordinator.
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