Anthony Muñoz noted earlier this week that another Bengals left tackle had made the Pro Bowl and because he is The Greatest Left Tackle of All Time, and is the kind of guy he is, no one is happier for Andrew Whitworth.
"First of all, it's always great whenever you hear that an offensive lineman makes it; and it's even better when it's your old position and team," Muñoz says. "It might have been because of injury, but he's still a Pro Bowler and Whit deserves it. He's a technician and I think those guys are more valuable. He's very technically sound, you always know that he's going to get after the block at the right angle. "
It turns out Muñoz has inspired Whitworth ever since Whitworth arrived in the second round of the 2006 draft and not in the way you might think. And via Whitworth, Muñoz has had influence on the evolution of the Bengals back-to-back-playoff chemistry in the locker room.
Whitworth had heard about Michael Anthony Muñoz long before he surfaced from The Bayou, so the snatches of highlights and clinic film were expected.
"He's the greatest left tackle who ever lived," Whitworth says. "What I want to learn from him are the intangibles. Not just about football. But about being a leader, a person. He's such a well-rounded, exceptional man. I think now we've got a locker room with a lot of guys like him. By that I mean not only good players but good people. You can see it in the young guys. A.J. (Green). Geno (Atkins). Andy (Dalton)."
About the time Whitworth made the move to left tackle four years ago he spoke with Muñoz about the nooks and crannies of the position. Then after that first season of 2009, Whitworth invited him out to breakfast to talk, in part, about building a locker room dynamic.
"He talked about how you had to have good people as well as good players; that it matters," Whitworth says. "And I think guys like myself, Domata (Peko) and Robert (Geathers) have really worked to get it like that the last couple of years and that's what you see now."
When it comes to Muñoz's work and profile in the community, no one is bigger and he admires what Whitworth offers off the field. Muñoz just wishes they could get together more often.
"I've appreciated it when he's picked up the phone and asked things about the team, looking for some feedback," Muñoz says. "Or we've seen each other at events and talked. I wish we'd have done it more. But he's starting a family, I've got grandkids and we're both busy and all of a sudden you look up and it's January of 2013 and you say, 'Really?' "
Muñoz may have grandkids and Whitworth may have the Lockout Twins plus one, and Whitworth may have been born in 1981, the year Muñoz made his first of then-record 11 straight Pro Bowls.
But it's not long ago enough to forget that Muñoz is the greatest athlete to play the offensive line from his days he worked at 6-6, 278 pounds. He's also very aware of his descendant's athleticism. At 6-7, 325 pounds, Whitworth is playing in a bigger era, but not all that different.
"He played tennis when he was younger so you know he's got to be a good athlete," Muñoz said. "I was 6-6, 275 pounds playing third base, or when you're 6-6, 250 pounds covering a 190-pound guy in basketball, that helps you. I started playing third base when I was six and if hit a long ball, it would take me forever to get around the bases. But no one could bunt on me. For whatever reason, I had that quickness in a short area."
Muñoz is also known as one of the great technicians, maybe because his offensive line coach, Jim McNally, is the godfather of modern NFL line coaching and one of his disciples is Paul Alexander, Whitworth's line coach.
"You know Jimmy," Muñoz said. "We were doing the same steps and moves in Week 14 that we were doing in Week 1. We were so technically driven and I think it was important, too, that I had the same offensive line coach for all 13 years. And playing next to (guard) Dave Lapham for the first (four) years was like playing next to a coach."
Whitworth also has that Muñoz blend of the eye of a technician and the spring of an athlete, and he's always amused he was projected by many pro scouts as a guard.
"I'll take on any left tackle in the league in any other sport," Whitworth says with a laugh. "A hundred percent."
When he heard that Muñoz noted his first Pro Bowl selection, Whitworth felt like he had another accomplishment.
"When a guy like that is proud of you," Whitworth says, "you know you've done something."
GRUDEN REFLECTS: After Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's first foray into the NFL head coaching derby this week, he says the one thing he learned about himself is to remain himself.
"I don't know if they anticipated a little version of my brother or what," Jay said of Jon, the Gruden that chose not to interview this cycle. "I don't want to go into an interview process and pretend to be somebody I'm not.
"I don't want to change who I am. I just didn't want to change anything about what I do or what I believe and if they liked it good enough and they made me an offer, great. Obviously they chose to go in different directions and everybody they chose is good, solid coaches."
Before Gruden headed to Mobile, Ala., to help the Bengals scout next week's Senior Bowl and begin his third season with the club where it all began with an interview two years ago, he reflected on the four-city flurry in five days.
He says he enjoyed the experience of interviewing. He liked the vigor and enthusiasm displayed by a raft of new general managers ("They're all young and hungry") as well as meeting new faces. The last job fell Thursday when the Cardinals opted for long-time NFL offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, according to published reports.
The Jaguars took a Gruden friend from his Tampa days in Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley while the Chargers took another offensive coordinator in Denver's Mike McCoy and the Eagles went for the offensive mind of the University of Oregon's Chip Kelly. Before Gruden took his first NFL coordinator's job with the Bengals, he interviewed with McCoy for quarterbacks coach but the Broncos decided to stay in-house.
"Gus was the linebackers coach in Tampa; great guy, high energy," Gruden said of Bradley's stint during the last two years of Jon Gruden's Buccaneers staff. "Obviously Chip has done some great things at Oregon … McCoy's another good guy with a good offensive mind who did some good things with Peyton Manning."
Gruden, 45, a former head coach in two other pro leagues, the Arena League and the United Football League, says he had no expectations heading in.
"When you already have a great job and you go interview for another job, there's not a lot of pressure on you," Gruden said. "I just went in there with the mindframe if it works out, I'll listen and it will be exciting. If it doesn't work out, you have something to come back to that is great."
Gruden is coming back to an offense that struggled in the last month of the season, but also featured half his regulars in their first and second years and the improvement of sophomore quarterback Andy Dalton in most every major category. Gruden is looking forward to having pretty much the same mix at receiver and on the offensive line for the second straight season.
"You never know what people are thinking," Gruden said. "There will always be candidates that rise in the college ranks and the pro ranks. There are going to be teams that surprise people next year and their coaches will be coming up. You just have to keep grinding away, do what you do, and if somebody calls you, you just have to be ready for the interview and hopefully it's a great situation. But I'm not going to go knock on people's doors. That's not how it works. You have to grind at the job you're doing. You have to put things on tape that excite people and make people believe that you can do it."
After the dust cleared this week, Gruden has emerged with his same vision of what a head coach has to be in this day and age.
"It's a matter of making sure you hire great people around you and you have to be able to put out fires and light fires the best way you can," he said. "Motivate and get people to play for you. It's not all about Xs and Os."