Could the Cincinnati Bengals Succeed Without Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden?
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
It's not the first time Gruden has had a decision like this to make. After last season, Gruden turned down an interview with the Rams for their head coaching position.
Gruden's stock is rising and after what he's shown he can do with a young quarterback like Andy Dalton, all of the attention he's receiving is warranted.
But let's say Gruden does leave. What does that mean for the Bengals offense? This season the Bengals averaged 23.8 points per game, up from the 20.8 that they posted in 2011. It should be noted that four touchdowns this year were scored by players not on offense.
Adam Jones returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown, Carlos Dunlap recovered a fumble for a touchdown, Leon Hall had a pick-six on Saturday and Wallace Gilberry had a scoop and score against the Eagles. So, of the 391 points the Bengals scored this year, 18 came from defense, six came from special teams, 133 came from kickers Mike Nugent and Josh Brown, leaving 234 points scored by the Bengals offense.
That means that the Bengals offense scored 60 percent of its points this year. That number is up from the 56.0 percent from 2011. For reference, the Patriots' offensive scoring percentage this year was 67 percent, and they scored over 550 points this season.
There are several reasons why the Bengals' offense improved in 2012 from 2011. First, QB Andy Dalton was much more comfortable in the offense. His stoic demeanor certainly helped in times of crisis, but Dalton's freedom within the Bengals offense opened up in 2012, and it led to more wins.
Almost all of Dalton's numbers improved from 2011 to 2012. His completion percentage rose from 58 percent to 62 percent. His touchdown count rose from 20 to 27, and his passer rating rose from 80 to 87.5. Dalton's rushing number were also up from 2011.
It wouldn't be fair to talk about the Bengals offense without mentioning possibly its best player, A.J. Green. Green had another great season to follow up his Pro Bowl rookie campaign. This year, A.J. has been chosen to start in the Pro Bowl opposite Texans WR Andre Johnson.
Green finished the year with 103 catches for 1,430 yards and 11 touchdowns. Of his total 97 catches during the regular season, 61 of them resulted in first downs. Factor in how many times he was thrown to, and we can see that 37 percent of the balls thrown to A.J. Green were for first downs.
The reason the Bengals offense succeeded this year is because Gruden was able to find ways to mix in role players in a different way every week. Green attracted a lot of attention from opposing defenses as they focused on stopping the passing game. Gruden relied heavily on the run game, and Benjarvus Green-Ellis reeled off three straight games with 100 yards or more.
Another wrinkle in the offense that proved beneficial was the use of rookie WR Mohamed Sanu. Sanu caught four touchdowns in three games before sustaining an Achilles injury that ended his season.
Also, the use of tight end Jermaine Gresham has been a plus for Cincinnati. Gresham pulled in 64 catches for 737 yards and five touchdowns. Along with that, Gresham gets my vote for hardest tight end to tackle in the NFL.
Gruden's ability to sprinkle in role players at various points of the season to relieve the pressure placed on the higher profile guys has earned him some phone calls from other front offices. Whether or not Gruden takes another job is yet to be determined.
Should he? It's hard for me to say no. Every coach hopes to one day be a head coach, and with someone like Jay Gruden who has NFL running through his veins, an older brother (Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden) with a Super Bowl ring as a head coach and Chip Kelly returning to Oregon, I think it's time to say goodbye as an assistant and hello as a head coach.
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