Bengals’ coordinators set to stay together for fifth season

Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

It became clear earlier this week the Cincinnati Bengals were going to retain the core of their offensive coaching staff. Now, the crux of the defense will be back as well.

Both offensive coordinator Brian Callahan and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo reached the final stages of interviews for vacant head coaching jobs, but the Philadelphia Eagles’ two coordinators landed jobs over them.

The Indianapolis Colts were considering Callahan for their opening but officially named former Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen as their head coach Tuesday. Anarumo was a finalist for the Arizona Cardinals’ job, but the Cardinals named former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon as their guy later in the day Tuesday. Callahan also interviewed for the Cardinals’ job but was not a finalist.

That means the core of the Bengals’ coaching staff is now expected to be back together for a fifth season, something head coach Zac Taylor does not take lightly in a league where continuity is difficult to retain.

“Lou and Brian and (specialy teams coordinator) Darrin (Simmons), we’ve had the same three coordinators since I’ve been here, which is really rare,” Taylor said in a press conference Jan. 30, the day after the Bengals’ season ended in the AFC Championship. “That’s what’s special, to be able to have that because we’re a very tight-knit bunch. I think that communication process has been great between all of us, all the way down through the coaches. Excited that Brian and Lou are getting these opportunities again. … Certainly hope that they get a chance to take advantage of those opportunities and become head coaches. And if they’re back, that’s great for me and all of us. That’s part of being a successful team. People are going to come and want to talk to your coaches. And we’ve got a lot of great coaches here that are more than capable.”

Bengals quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher also had a chance to move on to a bigger role after interviewing twice for the Tampa Bay offensive coordinator job, but he also is staying on board with a new contract extension, according to National Insider for the NFL Network Ian Rapoport.

Credit: Stephen Brashear

Credit: Stephen Brashear

Callahan and Anarumo came to Cincinnati as part of Taylor’s first staff in 2019 and it initially seemed like an underwhelming group. Taylor had only interim offensive coordinator experience at the NFL level, Callahan had only been an assistant and the same was true for Anarumo.

The staff has since proved to have found some diamonds in the rough.

“I think those guys, they’re really smart and they have no ego,” Taylor said of his coordinators on Jan. 30. “That’s a great starting point. I think they all have such tremendous experience behind them. You look at the places they’ve been, the guys they’ve coached, people they’ve worked under, the games they’ve been a part of. And we’ve all grown together. You’re allowed to improve. You’re not the person you were 10 years ago, five years ago. You’re allowed to improve. And I think everyone on our staff, the more we’ve been together, we’ve improved as a whole. And we’re going to continue to improve as we move forward. We’re not just going to be stagnant. I think that those guys all have a lot of potential, even going forward, if they were to leave and go somewhere else or stay here.”

Callahan staying means Joe Burrow will retain the head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach he started with in 2020, while the passing game looks to take another step in 2023.

Anarumo seemed a bit frustrated when asked earlier in the playoffs about the lack of interviews he was getting for head coaching jobs but said at the time it would be a disservice to the team if he worried about that.

The Staten Island native and former defensive backs coach for the Dolphins (2012-2017) and Giants (2018) earned the spotlight over the past two years while figuring out how to best some of the league’s top offenses. The Bengals held Josh Allen and a high-powered Buffalo offense to 10 points in the divisional round this past postseason, and they beat MVP and Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes three times in 2022 before finally falling to the Chiefs in the AFC title game Jan. 29 in Kansas City.

Players refer to Anarumo as a “mad scientist” for his ability to tweak his system to fit personnel and the opponent, as well as to make in-game adjustments. His return especially will be key to the team’s success in 2023, while several defensive starters could be on the move in free agency.

“Lou came in when I was a knucklehead thinking I could make every play in the game,” free safety Jessie Bates said of Anarumo. “The amount of detail work that he taught me. I used to go home, like, ‘Man, this new DC doesn’t like me.’ This dude don’t like me at all. Just the amount of love that he showed me may have not been to pat me on my back and just saying, ‘it’s gonna be alright.’ He pushed me. He pushed me to levels that coaches never have before, and that’s all you can ask for as a DC, and out of the coach is to challenge you every single day. And I think he did that.”

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