BY GEOFF HOBSON
When the Bengals agreed to terms with offensive assistant John Garrett Thursday, they felt they had added an experienced scout as well as a coach to their largest coaching staff ever.
Bengals President Mike Brown said Thursday that Garrett's return to a role he held here from 1995-98 could be expanded to include periodic college scouting on the road during the season.
Brown has enough faith in Garrett's scouting to leave open the possibility of a bigger personnel role in the future, but he knows Garrett's first love is coaching.
"I'm not going to predict the future on that," Brown said. "When he was here, he was as good as anyone we had at scouting. He was thorough and had a good feel for talent. We'll talk more to him about it and see how things go. He's a good guy, very bright and I'm glad to have him back."
When Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau selects an offensive coordinator in the next few weeks, that will give the club 14 assistant coaches and match a figure of the 23 NFL teams that have at least 14. The Bengals reached a high of 13 when Bruce Coslet came on as Dave Shula's offensive coordinator from 1994-96.
There are no frontrunners for the coordinator's job after Wednesday's impressive interview with Colts quarterbacks coach Bruce Arians. But LeBeau plans to speak soon with Oregon offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford and his talents that spurred Bengals quarterback Akili Smith to an All-American season in 1998 for the Ducks.
"The sooner the better," said LeBeau of his timetable that will no doubt run through his stay at next week's East-West Shrine Game, one of two college all-star showcases that week.
At least one of LeBeau's candidates is still involved in the NFL playoffs.
The Bengals, who have the smallest scouting staff in the league with three full-timers, rely heavily on their coaches to scout college players and veteran free agents.
Garrett, a scout in Tampa Bay for three years before joining the Bengals in 1995, will be involved in player personnel as well as breaking down film, creating and updating computer files, and working with the offense during practice.
And anything else LeBeau has in mind.
"Oh, he'll do plenty," LeBeau said. "John is a bright guy, an extremely hard worker and he's got a background in scouting. Our offense just got better."
The Cardinals didn't think their offense was getting better and Garrett, Arizona's quarterbacks coach, was ousted earlier this week in the purge that claimed offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.
But Garrett, expected to sign a contract in the next few days, believes, "I can be an asset in some areas. I'm excited to be back. Dick does it right and he's about to turn it around and I want to be a part of it."
His intense, meticulous style sometimes clashed with then head coach Bruce Coslet and some veteran receivers. But those circumstances have changed with LeBeau in charge and Steve Mooshagian heading into his third season as the coach of a position that no longer has the volatile Carl Pickens.
Indeed, Mooshagian, is a big backer of Garrett, the man he replaced before the 1999 season.
"John is an experienced guy in everything," Mooshagian said. "He's been in the league
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and he's one of the guys that pretty much created the computer programs we're using. He's familiar with that and our operation. He'll be a huge help on offense."
Mooshagian says Garrett's presence will give coaches more time with their players on the field and in the classroom now that one man is in charge of sifting through film.
"We would break down film of an opponent two and three weeks down the road while still working on that week's game," Mooshagian said. "That could get a little difficult, but it will also help that one guy is doing it now instead of four guys doing bits and pieces."
Garrett, a Princeton product who caught two passes for the Bengals in 1989, was delighted to be headed back to the Bengals. He knows his title will be perceived by some as a step back, but he cares nothing about perception.
"It's the people that make the job," Garrett said. "It's a wonderful move for me because of the quality people on that staff and Mike Brown is a guy that gave me my shot as a player and coach. I'm excited about working for Dick LeBeau. He knows so much about this game."