Bengals name offensive guru Hue Jackson new offensive coordinator
The Bengals have announced that running backs coach Hue Jackson will replace Gruden as the team's offensive coordinator. You may remember Jackson from his short-lived days as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. As a Raiders fan, I'm going to throw out some stats that have me thinking that Jackson is the right man for the job in Cincinnati.
The easiest way to see Jackson's effect on the Raiders is to look at their scoring numbers over the past several seasons. Jackson was the Raiders' offensive coordinator in 2010 and the head coach in 2011. Here are the Raiders' total offense ranks over the past eight years (starting in 2006) with the 2010 and 2011 numbers in bold: 32, 25, 29, 31, 10, 9, 18, 23. It doesn't take calculus to figure out that the Raiders were a lot better offensively with Jackson on the coaching staff.
Next up is the fact that the Raiders have had two seasons with more than five wins over the past 11 years. Those two seasons were Jackson's two years in Oakland, when the team went 8-8 in consecutive campaigns. The team missed the playoffs by two games in 2010, then lost the AFC West on a tiebreaker with Jackson as the head coach in 2011.
The reason that Jackson was fired at the conclusion of the 2011 season was not because his teams had not performed well, but rather because he was not completely adept at handling the off-field nuances of being a head coach (i.e. the media), and also had traded away some valuable draft picks to acquire a washed up Carson Palmer (Jackson was the acting general manager after the death of owner/GM Al Davis). Jackson threw his players under the bus after losing a win-and-in regular season finale, and that did not go over well with ownership. An offensive coordinator, however, has much less off-field/media responsibilities.
As for how Jackson fits with the Bengals, I believe they have great personnel for his scheme. During Jackson's two seasons in Oakland, the Raiders ranked seventh and second in rushing offense. In those seasons, running back Darren McFadden averaged 5.3 yards per carry and 121.7 yards from scrimmage per game. In the other four seasons of McFadden's career, he has averaged 60.4 yards from scrimmage per game.
Bengals running back Giovani Bernard looks like an emerging star on the heels of his great rookie campaign, and his production should grow quite a bit with Jackson calling the plays. Jackson was quoted after being named offensive coordinator as saying, "In order to win, we have to run the ball." Jackson will get the most out of Bernard, while 2013 "starter" BenJarvus Green-Ellis could be released.
Another reason that Jackson is a great fit in Cincinnati is because he is adept at turning his quarterbacks into efficient signal callers and keeps them within the confines of their skill sets. Look no further than Jason Campbell, who went 11-7 in two seasons as a starting quarterback with Jackson calling the offense. In Campbell's six other career seasons, he has a record of 21-40. Campbell's passing yards per game were among his career lows while playing under Jackson, but his passer ratings were among his career highs.
Inheriting an offense that features Andy Dalton behind center, some may believe that Jackson will look for a new quarterback after Dalton's three consecutive playoff debacles, but I believe Jackson will roll with (and have success with) Dalton as his signal caller. Dalton has improved steadily over his three NFL seasons, but his inconsistency remains an issue. Often times, Dalton's poor games come when he is asked to do too much, but Jackson is great at running his offense based on his what his quarterback is able to do. Jackson will figure out ways to get the most out of Dalton.
I wrote this article in large part because I loved Jackson when he was running the Raiders' offense, and any Bengals fans out there should be excited to have him as their offensive coordinator. Gruden is obviously a great offensive coordinator as well (he would not have gotten a head coaching gig if he weren't), but Jackson could end up being even better for this offense than Gruden was.