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The Dean's last class

Posted Jan 29, 2013

Jim Anderson, the last link to franchise founder Paul Brown on the Bengals coaching staff, retired Tuesday after spending the last several seasons as the dean of NFL assistant coaches.


Jim Anderson's 29 seasons in a full coaching staff role is a franchise record.

Jim Anderson, the last link to franchise founder Paul Brown on the Bengals coaching staff, retired Tuesday after spending the last several seasons as the dean of NFL assistant coaches.

Anderson, who turns 65 in March, ended a run that began 30 years ago when Brown interviewed him to be the running backs coach on the practice field at the East-West Shrine Game. No current assistant has been with an NFL team longer in a career that spanned the James Brooks trade to the free-agent signing of BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Green-Ellis, born in 1985, the year after the Bengals swapped Pete Johnson for Brooks, gave Anderson his 18th 1,000-yard season and 14th different 100-yard rusher this past year.

No successor to Anderson has been named. If the Bengals choose to replace Anderson in-house, one possibility could be assistant special teams/assistant defensive backs coach Hue Jackson, who broke into the NFL coaching running backs with the Redskins in 2001-02.

When Anderson came into the NFL, he remembers "you couldn't fill the page of the number of African-American coaches there were," and he has become a prominent figure for young minority coaches.

"He's legendary. As an African-American coach, there wasn't a better role model for me. He's my Tony Dungy," said Ray Oliver, a former Bengals assistant strength coach now the chief of the University of Kentucky strength program.

"Tony Dungy never came to one of the colleges I was working at, where Jim Anderson would come into different schools and talk to me early in my career and helped develop me and showed me how to go to work every day. Never take a day off and not worrying about anything except doing my job."

Anderson, who beat cancer, Walter Payton and the Steelers during his Bengals career, says it is the winning he enjoyed the most.

"That's the one thing I'm going to miss, too," Anderson said.

In the late '80s under head coach Sam Wyche, the Bengals led the NFL in rushing three times in five years and a decade later Anderson coached running back Corey Dillon in the Oct. 22, 2000 game Dillon broke Payton's single-game rushing record with 278 yards against Denver. And a dozen years after that in the Bengals four-game winning streak, the only back who gained more yards than BJGE in the NFL during that stretch was Adrian Peterson.

"There are so many memorable moments," Anderson said. "There was the game we beat Washington (to gain homefield advantage in the 1988 playoffs) when Boomer (Esiason) did one of his play-fakes and Dexter Manley tackled the running back and Boomer stepped up for a big pass. There was the game Corey got all those yards after we struggled in the first half against Denver.

"And I remember playing Dallas at our place (50-24 victory in 1985). That was the game one of their guys said, "Who is Tim Krumrie?' And by the end of the game he knew who Tim Krumrie was. In that game Sam asked the assistants to give him some plays and all the plays the assistants called were touchdowns."

It was Wyche who sought out Anderson in his first season as Bengals head coach in 1984, well aware of Anderson's work at Stanford while Wyche was an assistant for the neighboring 49ers. Anderson will never forget the interview.

"I picked them up at the airport. It was the first time I'd ever met Bruce Coslet and Dick LeBeau," Anderson said of the trio that came to scout the Shrine Game. "We ended up going to a hamburger place in Redwood City that Sam went to when he was with the 49ers."

Anderson ended up working for all three—Wyche, Coslet and LeBeau—when they became Bengals head coaches with a philosophy that stood the test of time.

"You learn in recruiting that guys can select the good, the better and the best. You always wanted to be one of the best," Anderson said. "You're not only going to represent your team, but you're also going to represent yourself and your family. Those things are really important."

Anderson, who continued to work while he beat prostate cancer six years ago, began the climb from graduate assistant to high school defensive coordinator and earned a reputation for an obsession with detail and preparation not only on the field, but when it came to scouting.

"He's a pioneer when it comes to coaching this position in this league," said Ollie Wilson, the Chargers running backs coach who has been in the NFL since 1990. "He was always on the road scouting ... his (campus) workouts are infamous around the league. ... If you ever have a question, he'd always be willing to talk."

The work ethic came from a guy with the same name.

"My dad taught me years ago that there are a couple of things you have to value and two of the things you value are your name and your family," Anderson said. "How you present yourself and represent yourself. And out in the real world you represent yourself through your work ethic and how you conduct yourself. They pay dividends. You never know who is watching you. You're not out there to please people but to do the best job you can."

Anderson never downplayed his role as one of the first minority coaches. He became a mentor for several around the league with the belief the best thing for the cause was to put his head down and work.

"There weren't a lot of us, but the thing we realized is we needed to go out and do our job the best we could so the door would open for other guys," Anderson said. "You make the most of your opportunity and the door is open for the next guy behind you. Go out and do your job and do it well."

Oliver is always amazed at Anderson's pride in that job. Whenever a back fumbled, he would look at Anderson and it was as if Anderson had fumbled himself.

"You don't see that from other coaches," Oliver said. "You hear guys say, 'He's old school.' No. He's the right school. I call young coaches 'Thunderjacks.' They think they know everything. They should spend about a week with this guy so they really do know."

One job Anderson can't do is name his best Bengals running back. He had a lot of different ones. The classic explosive big-play big back in Dillon and the reliable plow horse in Rudi Johnson gave him his biggest years.

"There was Ickey (Woods), who was a little of both. It's tough," Anderson said. "You had great team guys like (Eric Ball) and Stanford (Jennings). I can't begin to do it. It would be cheating too many guys."

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