Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo may not have been named the head coach in Arizona Tuesday, but "Coach Lou," returns as a centerpiece of Bengals head coach Zac Taylor's remarkably stable AFC power, as well as an immensely popular figure in a Bengals locker room where players routinely drench him with complimentary sobriquets.
Such as "the mad scientist," or "the professor."
"Selfishly, I'm ecstatic he'll be back but he'd still make a great head coach," texted Logan Wilson, his middle linebacker the past three seasons. "Glad to be in his system for another year."
Balancing the edge of his Staten Island upbringing with an easy ability to talk to players, Anarumo's reassuring return comes with four Opening Day starters (cornerback Eli Apple, safeties Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, linebacker Germaine Pratt) set to hit free agency next month.
"We're glad to have him back," chimed in left end Sam Hubbard via text.
These may be the Joe Burrow Bengals, but Anarumo's defense has also been a big part of the last two banner seasons.
Spanning the last 15 games the Bengals have played in December, January and February, which includes a Super Bowl and two AFC title games, the Bengals are giving up 19 points per game.
The Eagles allowed 38 points and 153 rushing yards to the Chiefs and Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes' offense Sunday night, but over a two-year stretch Cincinnati is 3-1 against the NFL champs while allowing an average of 25.5 points, including giving them just a total of 158 yards combined on the ground in the two AFC Championships.
In the last two seasons, Anarumo has made his mark around the NFL with a cavalcade of second-half adjustments. With his "Staten Island Stew," a multiple scheme working out of a 3-4 base that jumps into varying looks with a slew of versatile players, the Bengals this year became the first team since 1934 to start a season without allowing a second-half touchdown in the first seven games.
And heading into last month's AFC title game, here is what the Bengals had been giving up on average in the miserly second halves of six games in the last two postseasons:
6.5 points, 56.3 completion percentage, 6.3 yards per attempt while allowing a 60.3 passer rating on just three touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
"He's a players' coach and guys buy into his system because of that," Wilson said. "Which in turn allows guys to play free and effectively."
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor heads into his fifth season with the same offensive and defensive coordinators, a franchise rarity of continuity. You have to back to the Bengals' first few seasons of life under head coach Paul Brown to find the same head man and offensive and defensive coordinator staying together as long.
Brown didn't have an offensive coordinator in name, but he worked it along with wide receivers/quarterbacks coach Bill Walsh and offensive line coach Bill "Tiger," Johnson. All three were together when Chuck Weber became defensive coordinator in 1970 until Brown retired at the end of the 1975 season, although Weber didn't have the DC title in that final season. In the five seasons from 1970-74, the Bengals won their first two division titles.
The closest the Bengals would come after that to reaching five straight years with their top coaches came in the four seasons between 1986-89 with head coach Sam Wyche, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet leading them to the Super Bowl at the end of the 1988 season before Coslet left to become head coach of the Jets in 1990.
Coslet returned as head coach and in 2000 went into his fourth season with LeBeau as defensive coordinator and Ken Anderson as offensive coordinator before LeBeau replaced him three games into the season.
Next to LeBeau (12 years in two different stints) and Mike Zimmer (six years under Marvin Lewis), Anarumo and Weber are the club's longest serving DCs.