Updated: 5:10 p.m.
Marvin Lewis, surprised that Hue Jackson didn't get another job in the wake of last month's stunning dismissal as head coach of the Raiders, didn't let it paralyze him.
Believing that Jackson is one of the top minds in the game and is a good enough coach to help his club return to the playoffs, Lewis, the Bengals head coach, didn't bat an eye Friday in naming Jackson an assistant coach even though it's not on the offensive side of the ball.
"We expected him to get another job. It's one of those things that make you wonder about the National Football League and what we do," Lewis said. "I feel badly for what happened because I wouldn't want to have played the Oakland Raiders with Hue Jackson as the head coach. Now we're able to help him in his career and he's able to help us."
Jackson, 46, returns to the staff where he coached the wide receivers to franchise record numbers to assist new secondary coach Mark Carrier as well as special teams coach Darrin Simmons.
Jackson made his name on offense at USC and during the last 11 seasons in the NFL in a pro career that began as a running backs coach in Washington, where he worked with Lewis during the 2002 season. Lewis brought Jackson to the Bengals in 2004 as the receivers coach and in the next three seasons Chad Ochocinco led the AFC in receiving yards while T.J. Houshmandzadeh averaged 1,005 yards per year.
"Gil Brandt tells me that all the time," Lewis said of the NFL.com draft guru and former personnel chief of the Cowboys. "Coaches can coach (no matter what). Hue's done a lot of things since he left us. He's been a coordinator twice, a head coach, a quarterbacks coach. He'll able to conceptualize what offenses are doing for the defense."
Not only do the Bengals play the Raiders and former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer at Paul Brown Stadium next season, they also play the rest of the AFC West and Lewis plans to use Jackson's expertise with the division since he was the Raiders offensive coordinator in 2010 before the late Al Davis promoted him to head coach.
Jackson also was the Ravens quarterbacks coach in 2008 and 2009 and mentored Joe Flacco when he became the first rookie quarterback to win two playoff games.
"He knows our division," Lewis said. "Mike (Zimmer) and myself are going to dictate how things are coached on defense. Mark and (Jackson) are coming in and are going to learn the techniques Mike Zimmer wants."
Jackson is highly regarded in Bengaldom. When Davis called Bengals president Mike Brown about Jackson as he was looking for an offensive coordinator and later a head coach, Brown gave him endorsements and it was Jackson's relationship with Brown and Lewis that helped seal last season's trade that sent Palmer to the Raiders.
Jackson became close with Zimmer when they were coordinators on the 2007 Falcons staff that went through head coach Bobby Petrino's resignation late in the year and weeks later Jackson recommended Zimmer to Lewis for the Bengals job.
"I just want to coach football. I have a long relationship with Marvin and I'm looking to helping and assisting whoever in trying to help the organization attain its goal," Jackson said. "I've got a lot to learn, but who better to learn from than Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer? Those are two guys that I know and I'm comfortable with and Darrin is one the better special teams coaches in the league."
Jackson, who shepherded the high-strung Ochocinco and Houshmandzadeh through a run to the AFC North title and a game shy of the playoffs the following year in 2006, has Lewis's confidence "as one of these guys that's an extension of me."
"I know the lay of the land here," Jackson said. "I know the owner. I know the head coach and a lot of the assistants. It makes it comfortable. At the end of the day I just want to work. It doesn’t matter what you do. It matters getting better every day at what you do.
"I've watched them from afar. There's a great nucleus of players here and a great nucleus of coaches. It's a tremendous opportunity."
Jackson was fired after one season as the head man in Oakland despite leading the Raiders to a tie for the AFC West's best record at 8-8. The Raiders were knocked out of the playoffs by tiebreakers.
"He put them in position to be on the right track," Lewis said. "He was trying to change an entire culture on how things are done and sometimes you can't necessarily do that overnight."
Jackson says he's moving past what happened in Oakland and is now suddenly making plans to join the Bengals at the NFL scouting combine next weekend.
"I wish them well. I'm sure they'll do well," Jackson said of the Raiders. "There are some things you wish you might have done differently and you learn in every situation to make yourself better."
The irony is compelling as the Bengals head to the combine. Jackson is helping them scout the 17th pick in the draft, one of the picks the Bengals got for sending Palmer back to Jackson in October.
"He'll be a great player for them," Jackson said. "Right now I'm trying to be the best coach I can become for the Bengals."