Head coach Marvin Lewis's reboot season netted the Bengals a playoff berth and at least one Pro Bowl player while vaulting them into the conversation for some of the major Associated Press awards.
An anonymous sampling of a handful of the AP's 50-member nationwide panel indicates that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton are headed to landslide wins for NFL Coach of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year, respectively.
But each voter also said if they had a second choice in the categories it would be Lewis and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, indicating they'll be runnerups for awards that are announced on Super Bowl eve, Feb. 4., in a national telecast (9 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5) on NBC.
There is a red carpet show on NFL Network from 8-9 p.m.
It would mark the second time Lewis is a runnerup in the Coach of the Year balloting he won in 2009. He was second to New England's Bill Belichick after his first season in Cincinnati in 2003.
"You have to go with Harbaugh because of how he completely turned around such a dysfunctional team without offseason workouts," said one voter. "But after Harbaugh, the next guy would have to be Marvin because of what he did with such a young team that included a rookie quarterback."
The Bengals have two rookie of the year candidates in Dalton and A.J. Green, the first rookie receiver to have a 1,000-yard season in five years. But Newton trumped them both with his late-season surge that saw him break the NFL record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (14) while becoming the first rookie quarterback to throw for more than 4,000 yards.
"For me, it was between Cam and Dalton until Newton set the passing and rushing records," said a voter. "That put him into another realm."
Until Newton went ballistic on the record book in the last month, Dalton was getting plenty of looks for leading the Bengals to the postseason while becoming the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw for 20 touchdowns while starting nine victories.
"Green is worthy of getting votes, but to me the quarterback would get the edge there and I'd go with Dalton behind Newton," one voter said.
Green did get one rookie award announced Monday, a spot on the Pro Football Weekly all-rookie team opposite Atlanta's Julio Jones. Newton was named the rookie team quarterback as well as the PFW Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year. Harbaugh was Coach of the Year and his general manager, Trent Baalke, was Executive of the Year.
ZIMMER UPDATE: Word out of Tampa on Monday night is that the Bucs are scheduled to interview Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer on Tuesday instead of Monday for the head coach position. Tampa Bay's growing list now includes Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin.
Also, word out of Miami on Monday night is that there has yet to be a decision made if there will be a second round of interviews for the Dolphins head coaching job. Zimmer is on a list with Philbin, Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and Bears special teams coach Dave Toub. Word on the street is it's between Zimmer and Philbin with a call coming sometime this week.
ANDERSON ON TEBOW: Ken Anderson, Cincinnati's all-time leading passer, was in town as the guest speaker at the Oak Hills High School Stag at The Woodlands in Cleves, Ohio, Monday night and put on a deft display during the question-and-answer session.
Asked if Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is the future for Denver, Anderson said he's not because the kind of running-oriented scheme the Broncos have to use when he's in there isn't going to stand up in the NFL. Another problem, Anderson said, is Denver has to find a guy just like Tebow to be his backup.
"But Tim Tebow is a tremendous human being," said Anderson, who was the Jaguars quarterbacks coach when Tebow was in high school in Jacksonville.
Speaking of his Jaguars days, Anderson was asked about former Jags head coach Jack Del Rio, mentioned as a possible successor to Zimmer.
"He fired me. What do you want me to say?" Anderson asked.
Will the Bengals stay in-house after going outside for the last three D-coordinators? The leading internal candidate is 11-year secondary coach Kevin Coyle, a coordinator at four different colleges who could possibly keep some of Zimmer's system intact.
Anderson reiterated what he's been saying about Dalton all year. His answer to the Bengals when they called on Draft Day about Dalton wearing his No. 14 was, "You tell him he better make sure he's good," and so far so good.
On Monday night Anderson invoked the Paul Brown credo, "It's not too big for him."
"I think the future is bright with him behind center," Anderson said.