Two hours before his old offensive coordinator took the podium for the first time as a head coach in Tennessee Thursday, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor introduced his old quarterbacks coach as his new offensive coordinator at the Paycor Stadium podium.
Looking at Dan Pitcher, the 40-year-old Taylor shook his head when asked if he was too young to be a coaching tree.
"There are a lot of trees out there and a lot of people who have impacted all of us. I worked with people, people have worked here," Taylor said. "Pitch couldn't even get to the point where he was naming names of people who impacted him. So many parts of your coaching package have made you who you are. It's really hard to say this person influenced me more than that. A lot of people impacted all of us."
_It was Taylor's first chance to salute Brian Callahan's venture as Mike Vrabel's successor with the Titans. Naturally, they've got a game against each other in Nashville in 2024.
The best photos of new Bengals Offensive Coordinator Dan Pitcher.
"That's hard to describe how much he has meant to me, to Pitch, to this whole organization, all of these guys. It's hard work side by side with a guy for five years," Taylor said. "Like Pitch said, the lows to the highs, trying to problem solve through unsolvable problems at times. He was as steady as they come.
"Tennessee got a good one. It's the right place and the right opportunity for him. I hate that it's in the conference. I hate that we play him next year. I kind of like that we play him next year. We'll see when it pops up on the schedule. Really happy for him and how it's set up. He has waited a long time for the opportunity and prepared a long time for the opportunity. The right place came calling for him, and I'm really happy. We'll hear more what he says in his press conference. I'll be watching anxiously to see how it's staged. Really, really happy."
_Taylor had no immediate update on quarterback Joe Burrow's throwing wrist, seven weeks removed from the surgery to repair a torn tendon. But "everything has been positive."
_ It's not the first year Pitcher has been in the mix for an offensive coordinator job. He took himself out of last year's derby in Tampa Bay and told Bengals.com last month, "It was a decision all about what I believe we have here, how important I felt my role in it was and how valued I feel here by Zac and Cali, the players, and everything. It was just the right thing to do."
And while he did virtual interviews for a couple of teams after this season, that reasoning is why this remained his first choice.
"There are a lot of people in this profession that I respect who have great perspective who have reached out to me and almost to a person their advice is, 'When you have an elite quarterback you hang on as long as you can,' and we have that here," Pitcher said. "Not only is he an elite player, but I've gotten to know him so well as a person. He's a special person. He's different. They don't make many like him, and to get to continue working with him day in and day out, knowing that we have a guy that can win us a World Championship it's hard to put a price on that."
Burrow agreed when he gave a statement to the team: "Our relationship is as good as it gets," said Burrow. "I wouldn't be the player I am today without him. He's been preparing for this for years. He takes his job very seriously and does it with a lot of passion."
_The offense isn't changing. It may be tweaked and tucked and pulled, but this is Taylor's playbook. And how it is written, by committee and collaboration, stays the same.
"I think there are some places in this league (collaboration) is probably not the case at all. I think there are places where they pay lip service to it and here where we put it into action," Pitcher said. "It motivates you as a position coach and someone who is responsible for whatever section you've been given to know you'll be listened to.
"It makes you make sure you've checked all the boxes because if they're going to listen to me. I better know what I'm talking about. That absolutely has to be a part of who we are moving forward. I wouldn't have it any other way. It all starts with Zac. He made it very clear from the beginning. Just how he interacts with all of us. That's who he is and that's what he believes in and there is no reason that would ever change."
_The Bengals running game, ranked near the bottom, is going to get a long look during this offseason. But Pitcher says everything else will, too.
"Being able to run the ball is critical to offensive success. And what that looks like is different for every team," Pitcher said. "That's something we'll look at over the course of the next couple of months when we get back together as a staff and we figure out how to put our players in the best position to be successful. We'll work on improving in that area as we will in every other one."
_Two more young coaches the Bengals think highly of are working the next two weeks at college all-star games. Cornerbacks coach Charles Burks is lined up to coach the American cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and assistant quarterbacks coach Brad Kragthorpe is coaching the East quarterbacks at the East-West Game in Frisco, Tex.