Seeking to keep quarterback Joe Burrow on his elite career path, the Bengals Thursday promoted position coach Dan Pitcher to offensive coordinator.
Pitcher was named the Bengals quarterbacks coach two months before they drafted Burrow in 2020 and in the four seasons since Burrow has become one of the faces of the NFL.
Operating head coach Zac Taylor's offense, Burrow has racked up the league's all-time best career completion percentage, a Super Bowl berth, and a pair of AFC title game appearances to go with two AFC North titles.
"Mutual respect. I've learned so much from him and I Iike to think he's learned a thing or two from me," Pitcher says. "Listen, we've come up together."
The best photos of new Bengals Offensive Coordinator Dan Pitcher.
QB1 is just fine with Taylor's latest call, another win for his coveted continuity.
"Our relationship is as good as it gets," Burrow says. "I wouldn't be the player I am today without him. He's been preparing for this for years. He takes his job very seriously and does it with a lot of passion."
In the wake of offensive coordinator Brian Callahan's departure to Nashville earlier this week as the Titans new head coach, the Bengals moved quickly.
According to multiple reports, they interviewed internal and external candidates before settling on Pitcher Wednesday as he mulled his own opportunities and took other interviews.
But in the end, "This is the ideal scenario. I've had the luxury of growing up here," Pitcher says.
"This is where I learned how to be a coach and doing it under some really good people. It's not often you get the chance to take all those steps in your career in one place.
"And to be working for really good people who want to see you succeed, and in turn you try to provide value for them in a role like this. I think it's pretty special. This is what I was hoping for all along."
Pitcher, who turned 37 earlier this month, may have come up with Burrow, but he was groomed as a Bengal.
Ever since then-head coach Marvin Lewis hired him out of the Colts player personnel department, where Pitcher was a scout for four years, ownership and the front office have been impressed with his versatility and intelligence.
Pitcher went rung-by-rung to realize his goal of coaching quarterbacks and eventually running an offense. He arrived at Paycor Stadium just days after the 2015 Wild Card Game as basically an offensive quality control coach who worked with the receivers in 2016 and 2017 and then quarterbacks in 2018.
When Taylor arrived in 2019, he listened to the internal recommendations and put Pitcher in charge of game clock management as the assistant quarterbacks coach before he assumed command of the room the next year.
"Very smart. A hard worker. The Colts said nothing but good things about him and the scope of the work he did there was very impressive," Marvin Lewis says. "He did a great job at every task he was given. You could feel right away he would be a good coach on the field with the players. He was very comfortable around the players all the time."
Lewis became an advisor to Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce late last season, so it's really no surprise that one of Pierce's first moves as the permanent head coach was to show interest in bringing Pitcher to Las Vegas as the offensive coordinator.
But Lewis said Pierce already had his name before he suggested it.
That will happen after a season Pitcher shepherded Jake Browning through his first seven NFL starts. After losing Burrow for the year, the 5-5 Bengals went 4-3 the rest of the way and nearly made the playoffs behind Browning's historical accuracy.
He hit 71.5% of his 228 passes, second-best by a quarterback in the last 74 seasons making his first seven starts, according to Pro Football Reference.
And the stretch is among the best in club annals for Bengals quarterbacks making their first seven starts in the pros. Browning's 1,868 yards are second to only Burrow's 2,023 and Browning's 99.1 passer rating and 11 touchdown passes are second only to 1969 AFL Rookie of the Year Greg Cook, per PFR.
"He has excelled in his job of helping develop our quarterbacks over the past five years," Taylor says. "He has been a top contributor to our scheme and that role will now increase."
With Pitcher at his side, Burrow also had a quick start. As a rookie, he had the second most completions and sixth most yards by any quarterback in his first 10 games, according to PFR.
"He's grown into being the OC in the same building where he started out as a QC. Sometimes that can be difficult because there's not many guys left in the building from when he was a quality control guy," Browning says "But he kept stepping up into these different roles that require players to see you in a different light, whether it's a QC, or running a position group, or running a whole offense. I think he's done a good job along the way having a good connection with guys and has a wide range of personalities he can connect with.
"I always felt like no matter what you asked him, he knew the answer, or he would work on getting you the answer. That sounds really simple, but that's just good communication where you feel like you can walk into a game prepared. I always felt prepared when I was playing for him."
Pitcher has taken on a slew of responsibilities during his five seasons under Taylor, ranging from situations to most recently the third-down packages. He says the division of labor for 2024 have yet to be ironed out and won't be until the staff is complete. There is an ongoing internal and external search for a quarterbacks coach.
But he does know that he wants to emulate Callahan in a variety of ways, particularly when it comes to treating people.
"I really appreciate who he is as a person and how he treated me," Pitcher says. "I saw the benefits of how he treated everyone else. I want to continue in that vein. Treat people the right way. Respect them. Ask a lot of them because you know they can provide a lot. And then moving in the same direction."