Darrin Simmons is in his 14th season leading the coaching of Cincinnati’s special teams, and for the fourth straight season in 2016, he carries the title of special teams coordinator. His squads have helped the Bengals become one of only four teams to reach the playoffs each of the last five seasons.
Simmons’ units produced a Pro Bowl player for the second straight year in 2015, as HB Cedric Peerman gained overdue recognition as one of the NFL’s top coverage and return unit players. Peerman’s 17 tackles tied for the team’s highest total since 2008, and he had 13 solo stops, leading the Bengals to a No. 3 NFL ranking in opponents’ average drive start on kickoffs (20.2 yard line).
Simmons’ Pro Bowl player in 2014 was P Kevin Huber, who posted franchise records for gross (46.8) and net (42.1) average, re-setting club marks he already held. The Bengals vested Simmons in 2009 with a fifth-round draft choice for Huber, a relatively high spot for a kicking specialist, and Huber has responded under Simmons’ tutelage, holding franchise career records for gross (44.8) and net (39.7), and for best radio of inside-20 punts to touchbacks (3.79-to-1).
Huber, K Mike Nugent and LS Clark Harris have been a durable and effective trio in Cincinnati’s “specialist roles.” Nugent won an AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award last season for a pair of clutch FGs in an overtime win over Seattle, and he holds Bengals records for points in a season (132), FGs in a season (33) and longest postseason punt (57 yards). He also shares the club record for longest regular-season FG (55). Harris, signed in 2009 after being released by Houston, has never had an unplayable snap for Cincinnati.
Last season, DE Carlos Dunlap was one of only two NFL players to block two FGs, and the Bengals ranked seventh in the NFL in punt coverage (6.3 yards per return) and 12th in kickoff coverage (20.6). In 2014, Simmons helped coach CB Adam Jones to the Bengals’ first-ever NFL kickoff return title (31.3 avg.) and to a second-place NFL finish in punt returns (12.1). Jones claimed the kick return spot on the prestigious Associated Press All-Pro team.
“Darrin has helped me a lot,” Jones said. “About ball control, and just believing in myself to make the play. And his preparation for the opponent is unbelievable. If anyone is decent on special teams, Darrin knows about him.” In the long-established special teams rankings done annually by the Dallas Morning News, incorporating 22 categories of special teams play, the Bengals have had three top 10 finishes in the last four years, placing second in 2012, sixth in 2014 and eighth last year.
Simmons’ Bengals special teams have shown a nose for the ball, forcing 25 fumbles in his 13 completed seasons. The 1.9 average nearly doubles the 1.0 norm for the nine seasons prior to his tenure.
Simmons entered the NFL in the 1998 season on the same Baltimore Ravens staff as Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who was Ravens defensive coordinator at the time. Simmons was assistant special teams coach and assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Ravens, and he held that same role for the Carolina Panthers from 1999-2002. He joined the Bengals in 2003. Simmons played an integral role at Carolina in the development of Todd Sauerbrun as one of the NFL’s top punters of the time. Simmons began his coaching career at Kansas University in 1996. Simmons punted in college for Kansas from 1993-95, earning All-Big Eight honors his final year. As a senior, he helped the Jayhawks to a top 10 national ranking and to an Aloha Bowl victory over UCLA. Also as a Kansas senior, he won honors as an academic All-American. Prior to playing for Kansas, Simmons was a punter and QB for Dodge City (Kan.) Community College. In 1992 at Dodge City, he led the nation’s junior colleges in punting and was a first-team JUCO All-American. Simmons earned a degree in sports management from Kansas in 1996. Born April 9, 1973, in Elkhart, Kan., he graduated from Elkhart High School. He and his wife, Rhonda, have a daughter and two sons.
Playing and coaching history: 1991-92—Played quarterback and punter, Dodge City (Kan.) Community College. 1993-95—Played punter, Kansas. 1996—Graduate assistant, Kansas. 1997—Assistant coach (AC), University of Minnesota. 1998—AC, Baltimore Ravens. 1999-2002—AC, Carolina Panthers. 2003-12—AC, Cincinnati Bengals. 2013-present—Special teams coordinator, Bengals.
Darrin Simmons, who goes back home to Kansas and the family farm each summer, is the only special teams coordinator Marvin Lewis has ever had till all ends of the roster. Now that director of player personnel Duke Tobin is out in the open Simmons may be the most underrated figure on staff and that’s why we sat down with him recently for a Hobson’s Choice Podcast.
Bengals.com is devoting this week to honoring the best in Bengaldom this past season: MVP, Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and Assistant Coach of the Year
Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons just got done with one harvest and his farmer's eye is squinting at another. The NFL cutdown date of Aug. 31 is now a tense two weeks away.
Darrin Simmons isn't married to the stopwatch, but he's been pretty serious about it and after his sweet 16th NFL Scouting Combine this week the Bengals special teams coach continues to be adamant about speed.