INDIANAPOLIS — On a day the Fritz Pollard Alliance gave former Bengals running backs coach Jim Anderson its life achievement award, his successor hoped to keep it going on and off the field.
"He's irreplaceable," Hue Jackson said following Friday's presentation. "The list of running backs he's coached in Cincinnati is second to none. I'm going try and find a way to match what he brought to the table."
Anderson, the first minority Bengals coach when he was hired before the 1984 season, retired last month and received the diversity group's award from Bengals president Mike Brown. Brown, who received the Pollard Game Ball last year for helping to level the playing field for minorities, extolled Anderson's ability to work successfully with so many different types of backs harboring all kinds of egos and personalities.
"Jim proved he deserved the job by doing the job; that's it," Brown said.
Jackson, head coach of the Raiders for one season in 2011, hopes that's how he'll get his next head coaching gig. His failure to secure an interview for an offensive coordinator's job this year was one of the reasons the Pollard Alliance proposed to the NFL that it extend the Rooney Rule so that teams would be required to interview at least one minority for coordinator jobs to go along with vacancies for general managers.
The firing of Bears Super Bowl coach Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season and Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell's inability to get an interview for one of the eight head coaching jobs also propelled the Alliance.
"It's out in the open; it's being talked about more," Jackson said. "Hopefully there'll be some changes as we go forward."
Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten is calling for the NFL to make sure minorities on each side of the ball have a chance to participate in game plan preparation on both sides of the ball. There is a concern that there are only two minority offensive playcallers in the NFL, Caldwell and the Colts Pep Hamilton, while there are six on defense. But Jackson, who was also promoted to special assistant to the head coach, says the minority candidates are already on staffs as receivers and running backs coaches and it is the quarterbacks coaches that always seem to get the call.
Jackson has made the jump both ways. After three seasons as the Bengals receivers coach, he was named the Falcons offensive coordinator in 2007. After two seasons as the Ravens quarterbacks coach he was named the Raiders offensive coordinator in 2010.
"If you look at it from the defensive standpoint, there are only three positions," Jackson said. "If you look at offense there are five positions, but (coordinators) only come from quarterbacks coaches. There are, for some reason, just not a lot of minority quarterback coaches. (John) Harbaugh, bless his heart, gave me the job and that led to me being a coordinator.
"I know one of Coach Wooten's things is to get more minorities in the pipeline to coach quarterbacks. I don't know if that's it. There are running backs coaches and receivers coaches worthy that need an opportunity."
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier, the Bengals defensive coordinator from 2003-04, is upbeat about progress. In the past seven years there has been at least one minority head coach or general manager in the Super Bowl.
"I think things are headed in the right direction; we'll see," Frazier said. "The encouraging thing is they want to make things better."
No surprise that when Anderson got his chance to speak, he was still coaching. He took his message right to the guys in the pipeline.
"All of you want the opportunity to do the job. Once you get the opportunity it's up to you to make the most of that job," Anderson said. "How do you do that? You have to have work ethic. You have to have communication skills along with the people you work with. And you have to have that old attention to detail. Because the things that you do, you may have to do them a little better than the other guy."
Anderson proudly said, "If you cut me, I bleed orange and black," as he thanked the Brown family and the Bengals head coach that hired him, Sam Wyche, and the coach he served the longest, current head coach Marvin Lewis.
But Anderson's true recognition came from men on the other side of the ball who attended the reception. Guys like Frazier.
"How professional he was," said Frazier, recalling his two seasons with Anderson. "At that running back position he dealt with all kinds of personalities and he remained a class act that those guys in that room really wanted to follow. He mentored every one of those players. He wasn’t just a guy teaching them the scheme. They kind of looked up to Jim Anderson as a person, as a man. That's hard to do from a coaching standpoint. He was able to do that. Those guys out of respect for him, they wanted to do the right thing. He's a unique individual."
Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, who worked for the Bengals for 11 years, arrived here mid-afternoon Friday and the first thing he heard about was the reception for Anderson. He made sure he went there first before he began his Combine duties.
And a former Bengals linebacker, Brian Simmons, Jacksonville's northeast scout, shook Anderson's hand, too, after watching him for nine seasons on the other side.
"That's my guy," Simmons said. "He did it so long and he did it so right."
As chair of the NFL's diversity committee, Bengals vice present Katie Blackburn presented Vikings owner Zygi Wilf with the Paul "Tank" Younger Award for his contributions to diversity.