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Gruden's comeback route: 'Focus on job at hand'

Posted Jan 10, 2012


Jay Gruden

Updated: 8:20 p.m.

One of the many reasons the Bengals like their offensive coordinator is he doesn’t mind going out of the box in an in-the-box-league.

In fact, Jay Gruden, a former Louisville quarterback, reminds his players that he has broken up at least one pass to every wide receiver in warmup drills he runs with the wideouts at least once a week.

Gruden showed again just how atypical he is when on Tuesday he informed the Rams he wasn’t interested in interviewing for their head coaching job and plans to stay in Cincinnati as the brains behind the Dalton Gang.

“I’m new to this. If I’d been in the league 25 years, I would have interviewed,” Gruden said. “I just got here. I want to focus on the job at hand. There’s no guarantee you’re going to get the job. I just wanted to put it to bed and move on with what we’ve got going here. I was sick of reading tweets I knew nothing about.”

That’s the straight shooter that slot receiver Andrew Hawkins enjoyed working with his rookie season, which was also Gruden’s rookie season as an NFL coordinator after he spent eight seasons in Tampa Bay as an assistant to brother Jon.

“He’ll make a great head coach one day, but I’m happy he’s still our coordinator,” Hawkins said. “He’s an incredible coach. He’s a straight shooter. He coaches like he’s a player. He coaches it from the player’s standpoint and that’s what players like about him.”

You just don’t hear that happening these days. An assistant coach turning down a chance to interview for a head coaching job in the NFL.

But Gruden, 44, says he’d rather be focused on improving a young offense that he put on the map without the benefit of offseason workouts. He got enough out of a rookie No. 1 wide receiver in Green and a rookie quarterback in Dalton that they earned a Pro Bowl berth and an alternate Pro Bowl berth, respectively. He’s not concerned he’s hurt himself getting interviews in the future.

“People say you did this with rookies and that with rookies, but I don’t think we did enough,” Gruden said. “I’m not happy with what we did. I want to do a better job. We’ve got a lot of talent and I think we can get a lot better. If you keep doing a good job, you’re always going to get chances at jobs.”

Keep in mind, too, that Dalton is virtually his creation after Gruden picked him as his No. 1 guy for his offense out of the top seven quarterbacks in last year’s draft. Dalton was the guy Gruden wanted all along for his scheme.

Not Sam Bradford in St. Louis or Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville, a guy the Bengals passed at No. 4 in favor of Green.

“I don’t know how it is on other teams, but we’ve got a great room,” Gruden said. “They’re great guys. They want to work, they want to practice. You’ve got a great young wide receiver, a great young quarterback, a great young tight end, a solid offensive line. You’ve got a lot of good things.”

Hawkins, one of six rookies that dressed on offense last Saturday in Houston for the playoff game, says the continuity is huge.

“We were going on the fly with no offseason workouts and we’re looking forward to being able to sit down and get to know it better,” Hawkins said. “A change is something that could have killed your quarterback. Or take a guy like (tight end) Jermaine Gresham. It would have been his third system in three years. That’s tough.”

Center Kyle Cook thought Gruden’s move proves exactly how much talent is waiting to be tapped on offense.

“It’s awesome that he would want to stay and build on what we’ve got here," Cook said. “Look at what he did here in just one year. He brings youth, he brings enthusiasm. It was a change of culture to what we had before. It’s what we can do and how we can attack things and about building positives.

“You look at an offense with A.J. Green and Andy Dalton and the sky’s the limit because we’re going to add some young players through the draf. And, obviously, the continuity helps.”

Hawkins, meanwhile, is trying to sharpen up his comeback route for when he takes on Gruden in the May drills. That’s the one Gruden broke up on him.

“Of course we don’t remind him that he knows the routes; he’s the one calling them,” Hawkins said. “He gets right in there. Jerome (Simpson) gave him a black eye by accident.”

For now, it is Gruden running the comeback route.

 

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