Mike Zimmer's in-your-face-demanding-up tempo coaching style that raised the Bengals defense from the bottom to perennial playoff units has been bequeathed to new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
During a break Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, Jackson showed supreme confidence in quarterback Andy Dalton!(/team/roster/andy-dalton/9378c4ed-938c-434c-929d-4d45fe252101/ "Andy Dalton") and even though the most intensive self-scouting analysis in head coach Marvin Lewis' dozen seasons is still ongoing, Jackson is able to conclude, "There is one thing I can be very sure about: that he is the right man for the job."
But he also said the sport lives on competition and he did nothing to dissuade the notion the Bengals are looking for a quarterback in the May 8-10 NFL Draft starting in the mid-rounds where there is some talent.
(According to Rob Rang, scouting heavyweight for NFLDraftScout.com and CBS Sports.com, names surfacing in the third or fourth round are LSU's Zach Mettenberger, Alabama's A.J. McCarron, and Georgia's Aaron Murray. Sam Jose State's David Fales may not fit the Cincy weather pattern.
"It might not be as top-heavy as most classes in the past but I think there is good nucleus of players. I think you might find some players in later rounds that are going to play very good in this league," Jackson said. "That always happens at some point in time. But I think it's a good class.
"It's a performance-based business. Guys have to play. Normally if you play really well you have an opportunity to get paid and I think everybody understands that. That's just the nature of our business and I don't think most players for the most part worry about that."
Jackson doesn't worry about what the players are worried about. In his phone calls to various players, he has let them know the standards are high and that 11-5 with the NFL's 10th best offense and third most points in franchise history with 430 isn't good enough. No one is going to escape the tough love. Not Dalton. Not three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green!(/team/roster/aj-green/d1e7b054-2722-4a10-9dad-687267489bd5/ "A.J. Green"). Not the practice squad cornerback giving them a look for Sunday's game.
"By not winning the most important game we played the second part of the season, we have to ratchet the thing up even higher and the expectation is higher," Jackson said. "I don't know any other way to do it. I think A.J. understands that. I think Andy understands that. The linemen I've talked to understand that. I think it's in them. It's my job to pull it out of them.
"I don't know any other way to coach. I was asked to the offensive coordinator here and I'm going to be who I am. I think the players understand that, but I think they know I come from a good place. It's nothing personal," Jackson said. "I want you to make you the best player you can be. That's my job. If a guy's not performing at a high level, there's a reason. We have very good players here and our players are here to help us win a championship and I think from the classroom, to the practice field, to game day, they have to, but it's my job as leader of the group, along with the head coach, to create that environment to be all they can be."
Jackson also isn't backing down from his pledge to run the ball. He seeks balance. But he also wants the running game to be the thing the Bengals can hang their proverbial hat on when nothing else is working.
This is a tough league. Every week you're playing against really good defensive coordinators, really good defensive football teams. If you're going to drop back and throw it, I think a lot of bad things can happen," Jackson said. "I'm not saying bad things can't happen when you run. But I know when I can call a run play and if I hand it off to the backs the quarterback's chances of bad things happening to him go down. And a lot of good things when you have special runners and special blockers.
"It's just a balancing act of those two things. We're going to throw it also. Marvin said it best. You have to be able to throw the football to win, to score points, to get chunk plays. I think defensive coordinators and coaches are just too good."