Bengals’ Lewis on Zampese firing: ‘We got Kenny out of here, not Kenny’

In his first public comments since firing offensive coordinator Ken Zampese on Friday, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis talked about how hard the decision was and what his message is to the players moving forward with Bill Lazor.

“I told the players on Monday morning, ‘This is not magic. You have to do the work,’” Lewis said. “We got Kenny out of here. Not Kenny. We did. They’ve got to understand that. They’re part of that. Next time, look around. There will be different guys sitting there.”

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Zampese had been on Lewis’ staff since he took over in Cincinnati in 2003, working 12 seasons as quarterbacks coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2016 when Hue Jackson left to be the head coach in Cleveland.

But the Bengals failed to score a touchdown in their first two games, and the morning after the 13-9 loss to Houston, they made the change.

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“I just wasn’t pleased with our direction of things,.” Lewis said. “I wasn’t pleased with our execution. I’ve tried to voice my opinion, be helpful, and I just felt like we needed to move forward.

“It is very difficult,” Lewis added. “Kenny has busted his tail here. He’s been with me since I started, even when I was involved with other jobs prior to here I’d been in contact with Kenny. (We’ve) been great friends and he’s a fine, fine football coach. He’ll get another opportunity and he’ll knock it out of the park. But this just didn’t work.”

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After two games, the Bengals rank last in the NFL in scoring (4.5 points per game), 27th in total offense (258.0 yards per game), 22nd in rushing offense (79.5) and 22nd in passing offense (178.5).

Lewis said the lack of production and the fact the team had the weekend off following a Thursday game played into the timing of the move.

“We had a period where I felt like this was the time,” he said. “We had an opportunity to make it right, move forward, get back in this division and AFC race, and do what we set out to do.”

“We need better direction and execution,” Lewis said. “That’s what we have to have. (Lazor) is now in charge of the offense, along with my direction and what I’d like to see. It’s now turned over to him.”

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This will be Lazor’s second time as an offensive coordinator after holding the position in Miami in 2014 and the first 10 games of 2015 before he was fired six weeks after head coach Joe Philbin was let go.

Lazor replaced Zampese as quarterbacks coach when Zampese was promoted to coordinator in 2016. And now he replaces Zampese as coordinator.

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“Bill (Lazor) has done a great job of staying in his spot,” Lewis said. “He’s provided input and been a part (of the offense). Now he gets an opportunity to put a stamp on it, under the direction he’s been given. He knows the abilities of the players, he knows what we’ve been dealing with. He’s been part of it. Now he gets to put a new face on it.

“I had an opportunity to look, watch, and see his past,” Lewis added. “I had a chance to look at the tape and watch what he had done even before he was hired as a quarterbacks coach or recommended to me. You have some familiarity that way. We don’t have to reinvent it from somewhere outside (the organization). He’s had the opportunity to be a play-caller, which is one of the most important things about being a coordinator. It’s not just about the coordination and development, it’s seeing the plan, executing, and seeing how the plan unfolds and calling the plays on Sundays. That all has to fit together.”

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