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Even with QB uncertainty, Bengals excited about offense

It's too bad the Cincinnati Bengals have a reluctant starting quarterback, because there otherwise seems to be plenty of reason to like where they're going offensively.

Marvin Lewis certainly does.

Although a single game has yet to be played -- and no one knows for sure when the season actually will begin -- the Bengals' head coach has no problem taking a bow for hiring Jay Gruden as his offensive coordinator in February.

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"When you sit and talk with him, he's a football junkie and fanatic," Lewis said. "He brings great energy to that (offensive meeting) room. He brings a great feel (for) how every position is going to be coached and critiqued without being one of those that micromanages.

"As he said, when you call the play in the huddle, it should be exciting for the quarterback."

The unknown, however, is if the starting quarterback still will be on the team. Carson Palmer has said he has no intention of remaining with the Bengals. He has threatened to retire if he isn't traded.

But it seems as if he could be missing out on something special. Palmer clearly isn't happy with much of anything regarding the Bengals, but there is plenty of speculation that he had been particularly upset with the state of the offense.

Lewis presumably had addressed some of Palmer's concerns by replacing 55-year-old Bob Bratkowski, who had been the Bengals' offensive coordinator since 2001, with 44-year-old Gruden. Yet, by all accounts, Palmer remains determined to bolt Cincinnati.

It's difficult to imagine Palmer or any quarterback turning down a chance to work with Gruden, who brings effusiveness reminiscent of his more famous brother, Jon Gruden, who won a Super Bowl as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has spent the past two seasons as an analyst on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" coverage.

Jay Gruden also brings a good deal of experience and ideas accumulated from being a former quarterback in NFL Europe and the Arena Football League (where he won four ArenaBowl titles and was league MVP in 1992), a head coach in the AFL, an assistant coach with the Buccaneers and, most recently, a head coach in the United Football League.

"Obviously, everyone is familiar with the stuff Jon did in Tampa, but Jay was a big part of that as well," Lewis said. "He then had a chance to go out and do it on his own."

Of the many qualities that Lewis likes about Jay Gruden, the biggest is his "ability to mesh the run and pass together (and) put pressure on the defense by attacking."

Lewis also likes Gruden's exceptional attention to detail and ability to communicate his vision to other members of the offensive coaching staff.

"You're talking about someone who wants the right guard to step this way, the right tackle to step this way and, on this play, this is going to be the quarterback's read, the receiver's adjustment, the back's track ... and then disperse it to the position coaches," Lewis said. "Jay was a quarterback. He sees the offense through that guy's eyes. To me, that was a big plus to ... install the offense through the eyes of the QB."

Lewis has been familiar with the Gruden brothers since he and Jon were assistant coaches at the University of Pittsburgh in 1991. By remaining close with Jon, Lewis was able to keep up with Jay's career and become familiar with his offensive priorities and overall philosophy.

"When I went through this process (of hiring a new offensive coordinator) after the season, these things are important to me," Lewis said. "Right now, I feel good where we are."

Of course, he'd feel a whole lot better if he knew who is starting quarterback will be.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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