In the 14 years leading up to 1997, Bengals special teams coach Al Roberts had eight different jobs and seven job changes.
Los Angeles Express. Houston Oilers. Purdue. Philadelphia Eagles. New York Jets. Arizona Cardinals. University of Washington. The Bengals.
And Roberts' experience is far from unique. That's the way life can be for a football position coach, particularly one who prefers to be in the NFL. Subject to the high-pressure waves that cause ever more frequent head coaching changes, the assistants get used to sinking, then surfacing with another team.
But one of Roberts' colleagues, Bengals running backs coach Jim Anderson, has forged a relationship with his franchise that few position coaches can match.
Anderson is entering his 18th consecutive season as Bengals running backs coach, and to be precise, only one position coach in the NFL can match. Pittsburgh RBs coach Dick Hoak is by far the longevity leader with 30 straight seasons as a Steeler, but Anderson stands alone with the No. 2 streak.
"Dick and I get some comments, that's for sure, when we're around other coaches," Anderson says. "It's nothing derogatory, but just like, 'What about you guys each being at the same place for such a long time?' It is unusual. But sometimes, even in this business, it just works out."
A native of Harrisburg, Pa., Anderson
went west for his college playing career, playing linebacker and defensive end at Cal Western (U.S. International). He had a normally nomadic start to his coaching career, as over the 14 years from 1970-83, he was at five colleges.
But he's a one-team guy in the NFL, and is proud to proclaim it.
"I'm a Bengal," he says. "It's what I am. Guys tease me because I wear my Bengals gear just about everywhere. They say, 'If we cut you, we bet you'd bleed orange and black.' And maybe there's a little truth to that."
Anderson started with the Bengals in 1984, as part of the incoming Sam Wyche coaching administration. Life was never dull in the early years. There were Wyche's many antics, Boomer Esiason's brashness, and teams that barely missed the playoffs from '84-'86. Then came a strike in '87, a Super Bowl in '88, and another playoff year in '90.
But since 1990, times have been lean. The disappointment could have gotten a coach down.
Yet in 1999, when the Chicago Bears made a strong bid to lure Anderson, he chose to stay with the Bengals.
"It was a tough decision, and it was very flattering for the Bears to come after me the way they did," Anderson says. "But it was equally flattering for the (Bengals) organization to step up and make an offer that said, 'Hey, we would like for you to stay here.'
"I hope to keep coaching a long time, because I love what I do, and there's no question it would be great to finish with this team."
Anderson lives in Evendale and is approaching (in August) his 30th wedding anniversary with wife Marcia. They have a son, Derek, 26.
Anderson's longevity in Cincinnati must be attributed to some degree to a Bengals' organizational philosophy that has traditionally featured long relationships with loyal employees. (Though NFL strength-and-conditioning coaches don't bounce around as much as position coaches, the Bengals also have the NFL longevity leader in that category. Strength coach Kim Wood begins his 27th straight Bengals season in 2001.)
But loyalty is a two-way street, and Anderson wants to give back to the team that's treated him well. He wants to help provide a long-overdue shipment of championship hardware to the team's trophy case.
"I have 'unfinished business' to attend to," he says, reviving a phrase that appeared on bumper stickers after the Bengals' near-miss loss in Super Bowl XXIII. "We have to get this team back to the level it reached then, and I truly think we're on the verge of becoming that type of team again. I want to get back to the days when everybody had a smile on their face when you mentioned the Bengals."
As a position coach at a glamour position, Anderson has coached many players who have brought smiles to the faces of Bengals fans. Tomorrow on bengals.com, he'll review some favorite memories of top Bengals runners of the past, and compare them with current rushing star Corey Dillon.