BY GEOFF HOBSON
Akili Smith's college coach has taken himself out of the derby deciding the next Bengals offensive coordinator.
Jeff Tedford, Oregon's offensive coordinator, told Bengals coach Dick LeBeau that family considerations are going to keep him in Eugene.
"We had a long talk and I was torn because Dick sounds like a great guy to work for. He was awesome," Tedford said Friday night after a discussion that moved from an interview to what made Smith tick at Oregon.
"And my only one second thought is I'd love to be able to work with Akili again. I know he's going to do great and he's a great kid."
But another All-Pac 10 quarterback, Joey Harrington, and super sophomore receiver Keenan Howrey return next season as well as most of their mates on an offense fresh off a high-scoring win over talented Texas in the Holiday Bowl.
So Tedford sees another big year ahead, as well as a possible head coaching shot somewhere.
"My goal right now is to be a college head coach and with the age of my kids, two moves would be tough," Tedford said. "I'd like just to make one move."
Tedford, 39, said the prospect of coordinating a staff that has already has 44 NFL seasons under its belt for his first pro job
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didn't give him pause.
"Just going from a college coordinator to a pro coordinator is a huge step," said Tedford, who has seen other college coordinators take the step by first becoming a pro position coach.
"I think what it came down to was family and the fact I'm in a good situation here."
It looks like the Bengals won't have a coordinator for at least two more weeks.
It's believed LeBeau has made preliminary plans to interview former Steelers offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride in two weeks at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Plus, he has at least one candidate in the NFL playoffs. And other candidates figure to shake loose when the dust clears in the purges in Washington and Kansas City and possibly in Buffalo and Detroit.
After Tedford told LeBeau he wasn't very interested in the job, most of the conversation centered on Smith. LeBeau picked Tedford's brain on how Smith lit it up so well in 1998 that he became the third pick in the draft. They talked long enough that Tedford thinks LeBeau hasn't lost faith in hm.
"He believes in Akili," said Tedford, who disputes the notion Smith was at his best free-lancing out of the pocket.
"He was at his best when it was structured and he knew what he was looking for," Tedford said. "Akili's got great potential. He'll turn it around."
Tedford told LeBeau of the now legendary games of checkers he used to play with Smith as a tool for reading defenses.
"It's probably good for him to hear that stuff now," Tedford said. "It's things he wouldn't have heard if he wasn't the head coach when they drafted him."