BY GEOFF HOBSON
With the Bengals focused on luring an NFL coach to be their offensive coordinator, the name of Kevin Gilbride raised eyebrows Wednesday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Gilbride, who coached five top-rated NFL passing offenses at Houston and Jacksonville, is on the market after getting fired by the Steelers earlier Wednesday.
Pittsburgh finished just two spots ahead of the last-place Bengals in NFL passing this season with the same mix of an erratic quarterback in Kordell Stewart and inexperienced receivers. Plus, Gilbride's system is similar to the Bengals in which the quarterback and receivers have to often read the defense during the play on option routes.
The Bengals had problems doing that, but Gilbride has a charismatic, creative background Cincinnati could be looking to inject into their lackluster offense. Pittsburgh finished just two spots ahead of the last-place Bengals in NFL passing this season. But Gilbride has a charismatic, creative background the Bengals could be looking to inject into their lackluster offense.
Gilbride, 49, made his mark as the offensive coordinator of the Oilers' run-and-shoot teams of the early '90s before moving to Jacksonville in the same position in 1995-96. Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell could make a big push for Gilbride to return to a team that hasn't had a coordinator since Chris Palmer left to coach the Browns. Gilbride, serving as a buffer between Brunell and Jags head coach Tom Coughlin, became close to the quarterback.
Gilbride's last two stops (a 6-16 record as Chargers head coach before moving to Pittsburgh) haven't been as successful, but the Bengals know he's had a better decade on offense than they have.
"I know Kevin Gilbride and I think
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he's a good coach," said Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau Wednesday. "I would think it's something that we would take a look at and talk about."
On Tuesday, LeBeau ruled out only the run-and-shoot as a possible offensive scheme. But he said Wednesday he's not adverse to having some spread formations and putting in some out-of-pocket plays to highlight quarterback Akili Smith's talents.
Gilbride ditched the run-and-shoot after leaving Houston, but had success spreading the field with the mobile Brunell.
"He used to be a run-and-shoot guy. He's not now," Brown said. "We know of Kevin Gilbride and know he's had teams that have scored a lot of points."
Two names that were getting some play seem to be fading from the derby. Former Bengals and Buccaneers head coach Sam Wyche has concerns about his damaged vocal cords being able to handle coaching, and former Redskins coach Norv Turner appears to have other irons in the fire.
Brown, calling the performance of his team's passing game "embarrassing and painful," oversaw Tuesday's demotion of offensive coordinator Ken Anderson to quarterbacks coach in consultation with LeBeau.
Along with linebackers coach Mark Duffner's promotion to defensive coordinator, it was the only major move on a day LeBeau retained a coaching staff that went 4-12 for the second straight season.
Facing criticism about standing pat with the bulk of a staff that has gone 18-46 since assembled by Bruce Coslet for the 1997 season, LeBeau and Brown called it a significant change because it heralds the arrival of a new offensive scheme.
That happens when the club hires an offensive coordinator, and there is no timetable.
The Anderson move, which came after LeBeau's press conference, was also telling because it shows the Bengals are clearly not putting all their eggs in the basket of Smith, their franchise quarterback.
The union of Smith and Anderson comes less than a week after Smith went public and pushed for the hiring of Jeff Tedford, his college offensive coordinator still at the University of Oregon.
And while Brown still has hopes for Smith, he said Tuesday that the club seeks a quarterback to compete with Smith and didn't rule out drafting one.
Anderson had no comment and Smith couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.
But Brown said despite rumblings of a strain in their relationship, he thought Anderson's new role would help Smith.
"Akili has said publicly he would be satisfied with a quarterbacks coach and that he gets along with Kenny," Brown said. "But he felt Kenny's (coordinator) responsibilities took him away from his assignment with Akili because he had more to do than just Akili on a game-to-game, day-to-day basis.
"Now Kenny will have a more narrow focus," Brown said. "He can work with Akili (on his) mechanics and try to improve how he does the detail of what he has to do. The overall direction is to be the handiwork of someone who has yet to be designated. We are looking for someone who can come in and re-shape what we do."
Ray Smith, Akili's father echoed what his son told bengals.com last week and is hoping for an offense that gets Smith out of pocket more.