When the New England Patriots and the Cincinnati Bengals clash on the field of Gillette stadium, the players will have to make plays. Some will make mistakes, some will take advantage of those mistakes and others will make pure football plays that show why this is the greatest sport in America. Throughout the week the men behind the scenes, the coaching staff, have been feverishly scheming, drafting, and planning the best way to lead their team to victory. A tremendous amount of man hours is being dedicated to ensure that for those 60 minutes everything perfectly situated for the players to go out and just play the game. By taking a deeper look into the coaching staff you can discover the tendencies and trends that others may miss. This is one aspect of game planning that can further your knowledge of the game.
Marvin Lewis – Head Coach
In today’s NFL it’s very rare that a head coach remains with one team. It’s even rarer that it is his first head coaching job. And it is akin to finding a unicorn when he has not had the success that one would expect from a 13 year coaching stint. A linebacker at Idaho State, he transitioned to his coaching career in 1981 as a position coach. His football journey has relatively few stops but it has spanned a very long time. Working through the college ranks at Long Beach State, New Mexico and Pittsburgh. He got his first NFL job as the Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach in 1992. He was involved in the coaching of such steeper greats as Levon Kirkland, Kevin Greene, and Greg Lloyd. When the Steelers lost to The Cowboys at Super Bowl XXX, he stayed with the team until moving on to another AFC North team in the Baltimore Ravens. On that defense he was privileged to coach a stellar group of guys that would go on to win a Super Bowl with one of the greatest defensive dominations in history. The Ravens dismantling of the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV has become synonymous as a way to win a championship without a good quarterback. Trent Dilfer was the quarterback of the Ravens and while he performed adequately for them it was the defense that was the star of the team. Led by Ray Lewis it completely destroyed the Giants offense of Kerry Collins, Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber. Allowing only 152 yards of offense and 15 of the 16 possessions resulted in punts or interceptions. There will never be another defensive performance equal to that one. After a 1 year gig as Washington’s defensive coordinator he was hired as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003.
The Bengals under Marvin Lewis started out slow, he was forced to restock a team that has taken on the nickname of “The Bungles”. He finally developed an offensive core of Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, Rudi Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Bengals began a reputation of drafting and developing very good to great talent. Many defensive and offensive stars have been associated with Cincinnati. And in recent years they have almost become a perennial contender. With the increased success comes higher expectations. His postseason record leaves much to be desired. They have reached the playoffs seven times under Marvin Lewis and they have lost in the first games seven times. It is an ignominious record that is very difficult to achieve. He probably should have accidentally won a game with that many chances. This has led many people to call for Lewis’ tenure to end. Whatever the outcome, he will have made an indelible mark on the team that will be felt for many years.
Ken Zampese – Offensive Coordinator
If you could work work with a wide array of quarterbacks over your career, there is not a better bunch than the group Ken Zampese has been associated with. Cutting his teeth in the NFL With Mike Martz’s Greatest Show on Turf, he had the pleasure of working with Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger. Then moving on to the Cincinnati Bengals with Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton. It’s a nice blend of big play quarterbacks and quick strike spread guys. Also having the group of wide receivers to work with has been helpful. Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Chad Johnson, A.J, Green, have been nice weapons in an quarterbacks arsenal to deploy. Under Hue Jackson the Bengals had all the personnel to develop an offense on base formation principles with an equal run-pass distribution. And quarterback Andy Dalton was an ideal candidate to lead this squad. But, there were times that he inexplicable abandoned the run, oftentimes in the worst times. With Hue moving on to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Ken Zampese has his chance. so far he appears to be making the best of it. For a young coach 12 years is a long time to toil as a quarterbacks coach without a shot as a coordinator. It’s here now and the Bengals are 9th in the league in total yards. The points and balance of the run game need to be developed but the squad also suffered an enormous amount of turnover this offseason. Losing 2 of your top 3 wide receivers and having a Pro Bowl tight end suffer an ankle injury and not seeing the field yet is never a good start to the season. Time will tell if this is his shot at glory or will he have to return to the position coaching ranks in the future.
Paul Guenther – Defensive Coordinator
The ability of a coaching staff to have a coherent message distributed throughout his coaches and players and everyone understand all the subtle nuances is very understated. When there is upheaval in the coaching ranks it can take a little time for that ease of communication to return. Paul Guenther was able to transition into the defensive coordinator’s job after Mike Zimmer left for the Minnesota Vikings smoothly. Last season when Vance Joseph left to lead the Miami Dolphin’s defense for first time head coach Adam Gase, it did not go as well. Not only did Guenther lose his right hand man in the secondary, but he also lost the linebackers coach. The coaching musical chairs and regression in certain players has caused a top ranked defensive unit to fall to the middle of the pack. And after embarrassing losses to the cowboys and broncos, it has many people questioning if maybe this is the end of road for Marvin Lewis and his staff. Guenther has helped coach a unit founded in Jim Johnson’s defensive principles that are popular around the league. One thing that has marred this unit is the lack of discipline that seems to haunt the Bengals. Of not leading the league in arrests at one point, they are causing characteristic personal foul penalties that lose playoff games. Time will show if they can fix the problems and propel the team to their first playoff win.
These are the men that have been working diligently to spoil Brady’s homecoming. They are also a coaching staff that is beginning to feel the fire under their seats as the city and ownership is looking for some sustained success that separates the pretty good teams from the perennial contenders.