Head coach Marvin Lewis has enough faith in Bill Lazor that for the second time in four months he’s handed him a huge assignment.
Lewis gave him the offensive coordinator’s job for good Wednesday after Lazor impressed him with an on-the-fly effort following his battlefield promotion just two games and five days into a season the Bengals didn’t have a touchdown.
Despite not having the luxury of OTAs and training camp, his own staff, or his structure, Lewis watched Lazor steer Andy Dalton to 25 TD passes and just eight interceptions in his 14 games as the OC, the fourth most TDs in the NFL in that stretch. The Bengals also finished the season with two of their three best rushing games of the year behind a rehabbed line with top five numbers and put up 349 yards and 24 points against a top ten defense vying for the postseason Sunday in Baltimore.
Lazor, 45, is now entrusted with digging out the Bengals from the No. 32 ranking in the NFL, erasing the worst running attack in the 50 seasons of the team, and resurrecting the confidence of the franchise quarterback.
And Lewis, who has high regard for Lazor’s Dan Reeves-Joe-Gibbs-Chip Kelly pedigree, has confidence in him.
“He’s very comfortable with how I see it,” Lewis said of Lazor on Tuesday. “We basically wasted the 2,000 snaps of OTAs and training camp because it was through another man’s eyes. When Bill took over, Bill was able to try and work through things that had been already done without trying to slow our players down. He tried to work in the constraints of the way things were and the things that had been installed.”
Now the question is if Lewis and Lazor make changes to the staff.
But Lewis is clear on what he wants the 2018 offensive staff to improve:
“Up front and we have to improve the play of our quarterback and get him back to being comfortable and get him back to be the Andy Dalton we know day in and day out.”
He seems to have confidence of the players reached Tuesday.
“I thought he called some good games late in the season, especially when the line got re-shuffled,” said left guard Clint Boling. “I think he’s got a pretty good idea how to use Andy.”
Some players like how Lazor plays to Dalton’s strength with an up tempo pace and giving him run-pass options at the line of scrimmage while getting playmakers like running backs Giovani Bernard and Joe Mixon, and wide receiver A.J. Green to the edge.
Bernard had some big moments under Lazor. There was the 61-yard-walk-in screen pass for a TD in Cleveland, the game against Chicago he was their leading rusher (62 yards) and receiver (68), the 168 yards running and receiving against Detroit, and the 4.7 yards per 71 carries in the last five games after rookie running back Joe Mixon went down in the second quarter against Pittsburgh.
“He’s a good guy and I thought he did well coming into the job during the season,” Bernard said. “That had to be tough. It really wasn’t his stuff, but he found a way to make some things work. He’s the kind of guy you can go up and talk to about stuff. He’s approachable.”