Leslie Frazier has been interviewed more than Joe The Plumber lately as the former Bengals defensive coordinator makes the circuit in his bid to break into NFL head coaching circles.
John Thornton, the last man left from Frazier's Bengals defenses in 2003 and 2004, is hoping his old coach gets the nod in a derby that has included stops in Denver, St. Louis and Detroit. He can see the similarities in the recently retired Tony Dungy. Defense. Soft-spoken. Respected. NFL experienced.
"He's a quality person," Thornton said Wednesday. "He's like Dungy in that he treats you like a man. I think he would have done better here if they had more guys that 'got it.' But we went through a process of weeding guys out. He knows how to treat you the right way."
Thornton, who finished up this season as a free agent, was one of head coach Marvin Lewis' first free-agent signings in 2003 and one of the reasons he came on board is because of Frazier, then a first-year coordinator. Thornton was one of the most surprised when Lewis chose not to bring Frazier back in '05.
"No doubt he's a better coach than he was back then," Thornton said. "For whatever reason, it didn't mesh with Marvin. I've seen Leslie say that before, that they had some differences. But that happens in this league."
According to published reports, Frazier came in a strong second to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Denver and had an impressive interview with the Rams Wednesday in Los Angeles. He's reportedly got a second interview in Detroit.
It was a bumpy and interesting run in Cincinnati. Lewis took over the play-calling duties in one 2004 game (a 34-17 loss to Cleveland), but the defense also jumped from 28th to 19th that season and finished tied for third in the league with 36 takeaways.
When he left, Frazier acknowledged there were differences with Lewis (he cut his teeth in the blitz packages of the Eagles' Jim Johnson), but he also thought they had got past them.
But how long ago was '04?
Thornton, who just completed a six-year deal, was the only defensive starter on that team who was also on the '08 Bengals. After moving out of the starting lineup in favor of rookie tackle Pat Sims this midseason, Thornton, 32, played well backing up at both tackle and end.
He declined to discuss if the club has shown any interest in re-signing him or if he'd be willing to take a deal as a backup.
"I'm just sitting back; I haven't even thought about it," he said.