With Saturday's announcement that the Bengals are coaching the Senior Bowl for the third time in eight years, the biggest question remains which coaches are going to be working for them the week of Jan.23 in Mobile, Ala.
From all indications, things are fluid at Paul Brown Stadium and nothing is set in stone. With several staffs league-wide in the process of making changes, and not just those looking for head coaches, the Bengals are apparently waiting to see which dominos fall as they continue to evaluate their coaches, scheme and personnel.
Given that the Senior Bowl is a job fair for NFL assistants, something may not happen until then. The Bengals contingent, including the athletic training, video and equipment staffs, departs for Mobile on Jan. 23. They coach the North again in what is officially the Under Armour Senior Bowl, to be played at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium with coverage on the NFL Network.
The Bengals never coached the game until the arrival of Marvin Lewis, a big proponent of working the game in order to get to know top draft prospects after he coached the 1998 Senior Bowl as defensive coordinator for the Ravens staff that directed a 31-8 South victory.
Lewis' Bengals coached the '04 North squad in a 28-10 loss to the South, led by Marty Schottenheimer, the San Diego Chargers coaching staff, and North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers. After the 2008 season, the Bengals coached the North in a 35-18 loss to the South, led by Jack Del Rio and the Jaguars. This year the South squad is coached by Chan Gailey and his Bills staff.
"I have always felt that if we're not going to be coaching in the NFL playoffs, we should go to work and get to know some of the new prospects as well as we can," Lewis said in a Bengals news release. "Coaching the Senior Bowl has been extremely helpful the two times we've had an opportunity to do it, and I've had a couple other opportunities to do it on other staffs. I think it's always a plus. It gives you a good insight into the players — to their temperaments, how they learn, what kind of guys they are and how they compete.
"So we're excited to once again have this opportunity. This game always has the best players from around the country. We will get a lot out of working directly with them in practice and in the game."
The Senior Bowl has provided a backdrop for some intriguing moments in recent Bengals history.
They used offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski's recommendation to draft Oregon State wide receiver Chad Johnson in 2001 after Bratkowski coached Johnson that week as the Steelers receivers coach.
At the 2003 game, the Bengals announced Lewis as head coach during a week the club first sat down with USC quarterback Carson Palmer, the player they made the first pick in that draft. The game also provides extra exposure to the other roster and after playing against Florida cornerback Keiwan Ratliff and Maryland safety Madieu Williams in 2004 and USC middle linebacker Rey Maualuga in 2009, the Bengals drafted them all in the second round.
At the 2009 game, a Georgia Tech defensive end didn't play, but he drove up from his hometown near Selma, Ala. to meet with NFL teams. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and others sat down with Michael Johnson after one of the North practices and were impressed enough to draft him in the third round.
Odds are special teams coach Darrin Simmons finds a guy, but not a punter. The Bengals have ended up with the North punter after both games they coached, Nebraska's Kyle Larson as a free agent in 2004 and his replacement in 2009, fifth-rounder Kevin Huber out of the University of Cincinnati.
This year's game is the 62nd Senior Bowl, a game that originated in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1950 and has been played annually in Mobile since 1951. The South leads the series, 29-26-3. Three games (1991-93) were played with an AFC vs. NFC format, rather than North vs. South. It is a non-profit, charitable event which has donated more than $4.5 million since 1989.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who admitted he got away with one when he punched Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson in Sunday's finale in Baltimore, didn't get off scot-free because the NFL has fined him $15,000.
Remember what Simpson said earlier this week?
"Those guys were chirping all night. It was mostly Suggs. I don't know why," Simpson said Monday. "He was telling me I'd be out of the league next year. He said he had more catches than me. It was all in fun."
Then Suggs' helmet came flying off in a scrum with left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
"I was going to give him his helmet," Simpson said. "I said, 'He got you on the ground.' He got mad and hit me with his right arm. It landed, but it didn't faze me."
But Simpson did let the ref know when he saw the punch on the big screen.
"I said, 'Look, he blatantly hit me,' '' Simpson said. "But that's OK."
» Two corrections in the free-agent list blog. Right guard Bobbie Williams and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker are under contract for next season.