The Cincinnati Bengals installed Jay Gruden as their offensive coordinator Thursday. Now the younger brother of former NFL coach Jon Gruden has the task of remodeling a unit that purred far less than it roared in 2010.
|Jay Gruden brings seven years of NFL experience and many more years of success in the Arena League to the Bengals' offensive coordinator job. (Scott A. Miller/US Presswire)|
Gruden likes the flexibility that the West Coast strategy allows.
"The beauty of the West Coast is we can gear to our strengths, whatever they may be -â great tight end, great running back, great running game," Gruden told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "We have the ability to go a lot of different directions. Once we get into camp and get our roster set, weâll fire a lot at them and find out what weâre best at, what our quarterback likes and doesn't like, and go from there."
Gruden will guide a Bengals offense that finished 20th in the NFL in total offense (322 yards per game) and 22nd in points (20.1) under Bob Bratkowski, who was fired earlier in the week after 10 seasons.
Citing the franchise's perpetual futility, quarterback Carson Palmer asked to be traded last month. Lewis said he plans to speak with his quarterback about the Gruden hire and hopes he can get him back on board.
"This brings him back to an offensive system that he was used to, a little bit more, at USC," Lewis told The Enquirer. "Once everything comes together for him, I think it's a done issue. This is professional sports and athletics. Sometimes things happen, but they aren't necessarily the way they end up being. People move forward. I think it'd be very easy for him to move forward, from our standpoint."
Gruden has very high regard for Palmer, the Bengals' starting quarterback since 2004.
"He's one of the elite quarterbacks in the league in my opinion," Gruden said. "We have to keep it that way, keep him protected and let him have fun playing football. If he wants to come back, we're going to make everything right for him and give him every avenue to succeed."
Gruden takes over an offense that suffered a personality crisis during a 4-12 season. After winning the AFC North with a run-oriented philosophy in 2009, the Bengals decided to lean more on their passing attack this season. They signed Terrell Owens to team with Chad Ochocinco in their receiving corps, but the results were mixed at best.
Running back Cedric Benson -- unhappy with Palmer's team-record 586 passes last season -- had to be pleased by what he heard when Gruden explained his game plan for next season.
"We have to run the ball between the tackles," Gruden said, according the Bengals' official website. "We have to be a physical team up front. We're going to challenge our offensive line to be physical. We're not going to spread out and go no-huddle every down and throw the ball 65 times a game. I intend on pounding the ball and being able to pound the ball."
Gruden was on his brother's Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff from 2002 to 2008 as an offensive assistant. He contributed to three division championship seasons, including the 2002 campaign in which the Bucs defeated the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII. He was coaching in the United Football League when he received the call from the Bengals.
In 2010, Gruden was head coach and general manager of the Florida Tuskers of the UFL. He led the Tuskers to the league championship game, where they lost to Las Vegas.
In accepting his new position with the Bengals, Gruden resigns as head coach of the UFL's new Virginia franchise. He had been hired to that job Jan. 12, after the Tuskers ceased operations.
In 2009, Gruden was offensive coordinator for the Tuskers, helping them post an unbeaten regular season with a league-best 30.5 scoring average.
Gruden also won four Arena Football League championships as a quarterback and two as a head coach. In 18 AFL seasons as a player and head coach, he never missed the playoffs.
"I think there are (similarities)," Lewis said. ... "I don't know if he makes faces or what. But I think the fire and aggressiveness is there.â