1-15-04, 1:45 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
As former Bengals wide receivers coach Alex Wood goes back to work for Dennis Green and his 101 career victories in the desert, he thinks Marvin Lewis is headed to the oasis.
"I hope so. I hope he wins 100 something games like Denny. Let's put it this way. I haven't seen anything that says he won't," said Wood Wednesday during his first day on the job as Arizona's offensive coordinator. "The working environment Marvin cultivated for coaches in Cincinnati reminded me of what we had in Minnesota with Denny. Marvin makes it very conducive for coaches and people to work together. I see a lot of similarities with these two guys."
Of course, there were a lot of similarities between the Bengals and Cardinals until Lewis arrived in Cincinnati last season and broke Cincinnati's six-year string of losing seasons despite the Nov. 2 loss to the Cards. After helping the Bengals to an 8-8 season, Wood now teams with Green to help try and snap Arizona's skein of five straight losing seasons (14 of the 16 seasons they've been in Phoenix), and thinks his Bengals' stint can help.
He thinks Green with his perennial playoff success in Minnesota can have a Lewis-like impact.
"My experience in Cincinnati superceded all my expectations," Wood said. "I can't even really begin to put it into words. It kind of made me feel like I did back in the days at (the University of) Miami, and that's saying something because we won a couple of national championships there. I knew we were a part of something special here. To watch Marvin bring together a team that wasn't used to winning, well, to be able to see that and run with it is something you can bring to the table."
Lewis had no comment on Wood's successor as other former Bengal coaches were in the news Wednesday with former head coach Dick LeBeau apparently mulling two defensive coordinator jobs. New Bills coach Mike Mularkey likes him, as reportedly does Steelers coach Bill Cowher, and Pittsburgh could have the edge because of the proximity to LeBeau's family in Cincinnati and London, Ohio.
Bills defensive line coach Tim Krumrie is repotedly under consideration in Washington if the Bills give him permission to leave. Former offensive line coach Jim McNally, a Western New York native not retained by the Giants, is expected to head home to work the Buffalo line.
Wood, 48, has known Green ever since he played running back at Iowa and Green was a young coach breaking in with the Hawkeyes. He thinks he got the call now because
Green remembers how well Wood worked with rookie quarterback Daunte Culpepper when Green was the head coach in Minnesota and Wood was in his first year as his quarterbacks coach after a four-year run as the head man at James Madison.
Wood and Green went through the grueling process of drafting Culpepper in '99 and got ripped for ignoring his small-college roots at Central Florida. But, instead, the Vikes were right that Culpepper's considerable four-year experience over-rode his lack of big-college pedigree, and Green had to be impressed when Wood advised him that Culpepper was ready to start his second season and ended up going to the Pro Bowl while taking Minnesota to the NFC championship game.
After coaching Bengals receivers Chad Johnson and Peter Warrick to career highs in virtually every category, Wood inherits an Arizona offense that finished 27th in the NFL. The 4-12 team may or may not be like the 1999 Vikings and looking for a first-round quarterback. Josh McCown, a third-round pick in '02, showed flashes when he relieved aging Jeff Blake late in the season (ask the Vikes), but Wood isn't sure yet how the Cards will play it.
"I can't say now. We won't know what we're going to do until we sit down and evaluate it, but he does excite us," Wood said. "We've got a good nucleus that I think you have to say starts with the offensive line. They're big and they're good and that's got to be our focus. We've got some good runners, a good tight end in Freddie Jones, and we've got two rookie receivers in Anquan Boldin (the NFL rookie of the year with 101 catches) and Bryant Johnson that are really explosive. It's an exciting group that I think has a lot of the parts already here."
It's believed Wood is the first Bengals' assistant to get permission to talk to a team and then leave for a promotion in the NFL since offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet took the Jets head coaching job in 1990. As a native of Massillon, Ohio, home of the first Paul Brown Stadium, Wood's one year in Cincinnati meant more than 365 days. His uncle played high school football for Bengals founder Paul Brown in Massillon.
"It was an honor to come down here and work for the family," Wood said. "Where I grew up, Paul Brown was football."