Update: 6:05 p.m.
NEW ORLEANS — Former Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason, who handed the ball to Ickey Woods for his six 100-yard games and nine years later handed it to Corey Dillon for his rookie record 246-yard game, looked a bit awestruck when he heard that running backs coach Jim Anderson retired Tuesday after a 29-year run that began in Esiason's rookie year of 1984.
"Of all the positions in Cincinnati, I think you would have to say the consistency from the running back position with him as their coach is the one thing that was always a positive in some way, shape or form," Esiason said as he met the media during the CBS Sports news conference.
"The one thing I always could rely on when I played with Jim was his running backs knew what they were doing. He was a no no-nonsense coach. I bet you if he was a little bit younger he would have had a shot at a head coaching job. That's how thorough he was. I always knew the guy behind me knew what his responsibility was. He drilled it into them each and every week. Great coach, great communicator."
Esiason agreed that his duties on Super Sunday that include helping anchor CBS's pregame and halftime shows as well calling the game on radio for the third time conjure up the juggling act he had running Sam Wyche's no-huddle offense. But he says that was nothing compared to how he saw Anderson juggle a wide array of characters.
What amazes Esiason is how Anderson got such a volatile (Corey Dillon), moody (Harold Green), tragic (Stanley Wilson) and mercurial (Cedric Benson) mix to consistently produce.
"I think he probably looked at those players as his own sons and he taught them that way. I'm not so sure they all listened. But the fact is when you list the players that played for him, oh boy," Esiason said. "In my estimation, no coach has ever coached so many, I want to use the right word, unique individuals."
Anderson's retirement also didn't go unnoticed down here at Super Bowl Media Day when some of the AFC North rival Ravens were informed.
Both general manager Ozzie Newsome and former Bengals right guard Bobbie Williams were surprised.
"That's a guy I thought would be doing it until he was 70," said Williams, who blocked for Anderson's guys during eight seasons in Cincinnati. "Because he was able to relate, able to get the most out of his guys. Wow, wow. Awesome coach. A man I truly respect. A real knowledgeable guy."
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome was a Pro Bowl tight end when Anderson began his career in the mid '80s, and that's his frame of reference.
"Great coach. Just look at all the players that he coached and how well they played," Newsome said. "James Brooks, Ickey Woods. You just name them. Any time he had players, they always performed very well."
Even though Newsome went into player personnel after his Hall of Fame career with the Browns, he realized the profile Anderson had among minority coaches as one of the NFL's first group of African-Americans in the league.
"He was a guy you could bounce information off because he had been around and he'd been through so many things as he came up through the ranks himself," Newsome said.
AMICABLE SPLIT: Even though he made it with the dreaded Ravens, no one in Bengaldom can begrudge Williams savoring his first Super Bowl in his 13th NFL season. The big fella nicknamed "Boss Man" is still spreading the toothy smile, and this week it is wider than the Mississippi. On Tuesday, Ravens center Matt Birk called Williams "a big poppa bear" when describing his locker room presence.
Even though he's in a backup role that captures the 35-year-old Williams perfectly. In what had to be one of the more amicable splits in NFL history back in May, the Bengals allowed Williams to rehab his dislocated ankle at Paul Brown Stadium even though he was a free agent and they had already selected his replacement—Wisconsin's
"I have to give credit to the Brown (family). Mike Brown. Katie (Blackburn). For the whole organization," Williams said. "There was nothing but respect and care. It wasn't even about the player, but the person that I was and I thank the Browns for that. Awesome organization and awesome people. Cincinnati treated me well my eight years there. I can't say one bad thing about it. Seriously."
The texts have been coming fast and furious from the 513. Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander sent congratulations before they started needling each other. Williams threatened to send pictures back and Alexander told him not to dare. Last week, Williams and Whitworth traded congratulatory missives, Williams for the Super Bowl and Whitworth for his first Pro Bowl. With Whitworth, a native Louisianan expected here this week, Williams says he plans to eat dinner with him and center
"I texted (Whitworth) thanks and he deserved it," Williams said.
Williams also approves of Zeitler.
"He's a heck of a player. A road grader. I liked what I see in him," he said. "Paul Alexander, he finds good offensive linemen and I give credit to him."
Much has been being made of Ray Lewis's last game. But you have to wonder if it is also the last roundup for one of the best guards in Bengals history. If it is, he doesn't know it yet.
"I'm taking one day at a time. I'm not trying to count my days," Williams said. "Let me get better and better. Stronger and stronger. I'm just enjoying the moment. I don't have any worries about that. I'll sit down and talk to my wife. But I'm not thinking about any of about. I'm trying to win a Super Bowl."
BOOMER BACKS DALTON: The Blond Bomber is backing The Red Baron.
On Tuesday, Esiason said he's hearing the concern about
"Stop," he directed. "I'm a buyer.
"For five years they were looking like that at (Ravens quarterback) Joe Flacco and now he's here at the Super Bowl. Everybody has to calm down. You have to remember Andy Dalton plays in a conference that includes Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
"I'm not going to sit here and say he's Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick or RGIII. He's not that player. But he can be Joe Flacco, he can be Tom Brady, he can be Peyton Manning. I know one thing: he's into it and he cares. He's not out screwing around. I'm a buyer of Andy Dalton. When you look at the numbers and see what he's doing, why wouldn't you be a buyer?"
Esiason thinks this is a career-making Super Bowl for Flacco. He also thinks Dalton's career is on a similar track because both made the playoffs in their first two years.
"With the exception Joe Flacco won playoff games his first two years. (Dalton) just has got to get over the hump," Esiason said.