2-17-04, 7 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Receivers coach Hue Jackson, the Bengals' newest assistant, brings a Who's Who resume into this week's NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
He is the only man to ever call plays for a head coach named Steve Spurrier. He successfully recruited a Heisman Trophy winner named Carson Palmer. He made a name for himself as a black college quarterback at Pacific back when it was still an anomaly rather than a given in the mid-1980s.
Jackson, the former Redskins offensive coordinator, is the only on-field change as head coach Marvin Lewis takes his staff to Indy for a second season to look at the nation's top college prospects. Lewis could name an assistant strength and conditioning coach before he heads to Indy Wednesday as he continues the search to replace Kurtis Shultz, the Vikings' new weight room chief.
Jackson, 38, caught five quick questions from Bengals.com Monday on a variety of topics. He believes the soft-spoken Palmer has those leadership intangibles to be a NFL quarterback. He's looking to coax more out of a corps of receivers coming off break-out seasons, such as focus from Chad Johnson, consistency from Peter Warrick, and quickness from Kelley Washington. Known for literally scrimmaging with his players during practice, Jackson is preparing to run with his receivers. **
GH: You've had a month to look at tape of Chad, Peter, and Kelley. What is your take? What do they need to improve on?**
HJ: Chad is fast, he can catch the ball, he's what you're looking for in big-play potential. My goal is for him to continue to grow in the NFL game. The experience of playing consistently week in and week out. You can't be a guy that shows up for one game and then doesn't show for the next two. You've got to be a guy that's there every week.
Obviously he played at Pro Bowl caliber this past year. Our goal is to help him play as well as he can play. Whatever that means. The consistency issue, as I watch, because he is a very talented individual, but if we can get him to do that and contribute to this offense every week, we'll be better.
If we can get him to concentrate and focus on the finer things of playing his position, he can go and be as good as he wants to be if he continues to work.
Kelley didn't play as much as Chad and Peter as a rookie, but what he has to do now is step it up to the next level. He's another tremendously talented guy. I would like to see Kelley improve his overall body quickness so it gives him a chance to create separation from defenders. The No. 1 thing about playing in this league is you have to defeat man coverage, and it's not always just running down the field and catching the ball. It's about creating separation at the line of scrimmage so the quarterback feels confident in getting him the ball. He needs to improve on that overall quickness, and I want to make sure we're doing all the things we can in the weight room, the class room, and the practice field to make sure it happens.
Peter had a phenomenal year. Regardless of what had gone on in the past, he did it this year. The biggest thing with Peter is, now let's go be consistent, and play better than that this coming season. It's the same thing for Chad and Peter. It takes a lot of work to keep doing that and it's going to be harder now because other teams know what they are capable of. **
GH: What did you learn from Spurrier? How can that help you here?*(Ed. Note: Jackson prepared the Redskins' offense last year against five teams the Bengals are to play this season.) *
HJ:** He's never had a coordinator or let anyone call plays, and that to me said he had trust in the guy that he made the coordinator. I really appreciated the opportunity. It was an invaluable experience. What you learn from it, when you haven't done it before at this level, you want to know if all the things you knew worked. How you prepare, how you put together a game plan, how you attack situations in a game that have worked for you in college to make it work at this level. It's no different. It's still football, a game of attacking situations, and it was exactly what I thought it would be.
The big thing I learned from Coach is to stay flexible. If a team is going to give you something, go take advantage of it because they'll take it away at some point in time. Make sure you always put yourself in a situation to have success, and that means the quarterback has to have a chance to successful. I learned a lot of great concepts from Coach, and I'll take them everywhere I go.
My role here is to coach the receivers and help anywhere on offense. If Coach (Bob) Bratkowski says, "Hey Hue, you have an idea of a way to go attack a team," I think I can have a little bit better input than most receiver coaches because I've seen the game from a different light. I think I'm another resource on the staff.
GH: When you were at USC, you recruited Carson and for a few years coordinated his offense. Is it fate you guys are reunited? You were a guy that saw him in every situation. Before he was drafted, some outside the organization wondered if he's got the outgoing personality to be the kind of leader it takes to be a NFL quarterback. The Bengals obviously think he has it. **
HJ:** I don't know if it's fate or what. I know it's good. I saw him from the start, and he's one of the best high school players I've ever seen and what he is today, I'm not surprised. He's a very talented individual and when his opportunity comes, I'm sure he'll make the most of it.
I'm sure a lot of things are going to be said before it is all said and done for his career. The No. 1 question for a quarterback is, does he win? If you are able to win, all the other things get pushed to the side. What you get judged by is your record. You're not judged by anything else. I understand that you wish all those things help compile the record. The fiery-ness, and all of that that people say maybe he might be lacking. But I don't see that.
I think Carson is a very quiet, calm, poised individual and that when the time comes, he'll take the opportunity to be the vocal leader, to be the leader by example, that he will do that. That's the track record (at USC). He had to exhibit something to be the starting quarterback there for four years. If not, it's like anything else. If players don't believe in you, they won't follow you and they followed him all the way to the Orange Bowl. I don't have any reservation about who he is and what he is about. Who ever doesn't think he's got that is going to be surprised how his career goes. **
GH: You were playing quarterback back when a lot of blacks weren't playing the position. Who did you have for role models and do you think the reason you weren't recruited out of high school as a quarterback is because you were black?* *
HJ:** I looked at guys like Doug Williams, Warren Moon, and because he played right there for USC, Vince Evans. I grew up in L.A., went to high school at Dorsey, and Moon was another guy from California. These were guys who were all successful in the NFL in their own way, and no question they were the guys that made it possible for the Blakes, the Donovan McNabbs, the Shaun Kings, all the guys playing now.
I didn't have an offer to play quarterback coming out of high school and I don't know why. I don't want to believe it was because (I was black). Maybe they didn't think I had the talent, but we won a championship in the inner city of L.A., which is hard to do. We only lost one game with a very talented team. I thought I was deserving. I had the better statistics in high school football at Dorsey. At the time, there was probably more of the stereotype. If you were a minority, you were supposed to be playing defensive back, running back, receiver.
It just didn't happen. I decided to go to go junior college and re-prove myself all over again at Glendale and it all worked out because I ended up playing quarterback at Pacific and had a great career there. **
GH: You're known to be pretty active in practice. You're out there running around, trying to strip the ball from guys and running down field. Where did you get that from?**
HJ: I've known ever since I was little I was going to be a coach. People used to tell me, "You're going to be a coach, you're going to be a coach." Up through high school, I was always the quarterback and leader of the team and then I went to college and it was still, "You're going to be a coach." In college, I also played basketball and right after my last season, my football coach, Bob Cope, said, "You're going to be a coach, and a matter of fact, you're going to be on my staff because I'm going to hire you."
I think (his style) happened when I first started coaching from Bob Cope. He says, "You've got to coach them on the run, Hue. You can't sit there and wait." And you know what? He had a point.
Players don't like to be embarrassed. Whether it's high school players, college players, or Pro Bowlers. I've always had this thing, if I met them somewhere down the field, and if I wanted to get after him, I could because many people couldn't hear me. His teammates couldn't hear me correct him or get after him about something I thought they needed to do better.
I found I had less (vocal) confrontations as a coach because I was able to do it away from the audience and get it corrected and then have the player go do it right. Plus, it keeps me in great shape.
I've got to sharpen it up because I'm doing it from a different angle now. I was probably more into it as a coordinator. The difference is you're not coaching one or two guys, you're coaching the whole offense. There's a certain ethic you're looking for from the offensive group. Practice tempo, game temp, whatever that is, you've to make sure you strive to get it.