The Cincinnati Bengals did not have to look too long or too far to find Jay Gruden’s successor as offensive coordinator.
Just minutes into the press conference where the Washington Redskins introduced Gruden as their new head coach, the Bengals announced running backs coach Hue Jackson had been promoted to offensive coordinator.
An NFL coach for 13 seasons, including one as head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2011, Jackson also held the title of special assistant to head coach Marvin Lewis this season.
Jackson has been an offensive coordinator in Washington (2003), Atlanta (2007) and Oakland (2010), and he is in his second stint as a Bengals assistant under Lewis after working as wide receivers coach from 2004-06.
“It’s an honor to be Bengals offensive coordinator and to keep working with Marvin and Mike Brown and the Brown family,” said Jackson, who returned to Cincinnati as assistant defensive backs coach in 2012 after his firing in Oakland.
“Our goal is to be the best, to be the one team hoisting that trophy when it’s all over,” Jackson said. “And that’s what I’ll be working for every day.”
Jackson takes control of an offense that continued to grow under Gruden, leadinig the team to the playoffs all three years.
In his first season as coordinator, Gruden took a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton and rookie wide receiver in A.J. Green and built an offense that ranked 20th in the league at 319.9 yards per game.
This past season the Bengals ranked 10th in total offense with 368.4 ypg, and Dalton set franchise records for touchdown passes (33) and passing yards (4,293).
“I am very excited to move forward with Hue,” Lewis said. “We are blessed to have a staff that allows us to promote from within. It keeps some of the continuity with our offensive team, yet we get new direction and fire from an aggressive and innovative coaching mind. Hue’s expertise in all aspects of football and coaching is very wide.”
Jackson is expected to make the running game more of a focus than it was under Gruden. As offensive coordinator in Oakland in 2010, Jackson’s Raiders ranked second in the league in rushing and 10th in total offense. The following year with him as head coach, Oakland was seventh in rushing and ninth overall.
Last year under Gruden the Bengals were 18th in rushing and eighth in passing.
“I’m excited about having Hue lead our offense,” Dalton said. “He’s a coach we all know and respect, not just the running backs, and he’ll bring a little different perspective that can help us move forward.
“He’s been around a lot of places in college and the NFL, part of some great offenses. So it looks very good to me, what we’ve got going forward.”
Gruden opened his press conference in Washington by acknowledging his family and the Bengals organization.
“I’d like to thank Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis for giving me the opportunity to be the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals,” Gruden said. “They took a chance on me, and we had some great seasons there. Unfortunately we didn’t win in the playoffs, but it was a great opportunity for me.”
Gruden is the first Lewis assistant since Jackson to go on and become a head coach in the NFL.
“I’m ecstatic for Jay,” Lewis said. “From the first time we met, I’ve been a Jay Gruden fan. I’m grateful for what he did for us, his work with a young quarterback and helping take us where we’ve been the last three seasons in the playoffs. I knew he might get this kind of opportunity, of course, so it’s not a surprise, and I just wish him all the best.”
The Bengals could be looking for a new defensive coordinator in the coming days as well as Mike Zimmer is thought to be a leading candidate for the head caoching job in Minnesota and also is expected to interview in Tennessee.
Zimmer’s defense ranked first in the AFC and third in the NFL this season.