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Bengals Coordinators Gruden, Zimmer Both Excellent Head Coaching Candidates

Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Joe Reedy (one of the best) posted on his blog a bit about the possibility of Bengals Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden being a candidate for the Jaguars head coaching vacancy.

And it makes perfect sense.

In pregame research, I try to hone in on three things in regards to the Steelers opponent: what the team's local media say about the team, what the national media say about the team and what the fans say about the team.

More often than not, I end up scrolling through the Ask a Fan post of that team, and enjoy the wit that lies within. Before the Week 10 game with Cincinnati, I asked them what people thought of either Mike Zimmer or Jay Gruden as head coaching candidates. It went a while before a response was posted, and my question was essentially dismissed as something that won't happen.

I didn't understand why then, and considering it seems there will be a cleansing of houses among several NFL teams this coming offseason, I have even less doubt either one - if not both - of them could be brought somewhere else.

I don't mean to put the Bengals in any kind of negative light - I mean that. But look at what Gruden has done with that offense. He took a second-round quarterback (historically, less than five percent of QBs taken later than the 33rd pick in the draft amount to an above-replacement-level player) with a spotty offensive line and young, underachieving veteran receivers and made them into a passable - if not successful - group. He got RT Andre Smith motivated, which is something no one has ever done. He's brought them up from the doldrums to be a competitive group.

How many young offenses are there in the league right now that could use that sort of leadership? Indianapolis (likely to get the crown jewel of quarterbacks, in desperate need of an offensive overhaul), Minnesota with Christian Ponder (more talented than Dalton, in desperate need of help, a high draft pick coming), St. Louis (see Minnesota, but with Sam Bradford) and Jacksonville.

As for Zimmer...this is a guy who has figured out how to get pressure with four pass rushers. That's how you beat Packers phenom Aaron Rodgers (I think it is, anyway, no one else has figured it out yet). And he's doing it not with Julius Peppers and DeMarcus Ware, he's doing it with Geno Atkins and Frostee Rucker.

The 4-3 defensive philosophy puts all emphasis on the front four getting pressure. The Giants defeated the undefeated Patriots because of exactly what Zimmer is doing now. It's also what got Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo his job. But Zimmer does it without first-round talent. He simply found defensive ends who can play inside (like Justin Tuck in 2007) and moves them in and out. His linebackers can cover briefly down the field, but can really stop the run. That takes a huge amount of pressure off the secondary, allowing them to make plays on the ball.

What general manager who wants to emphasize defense would not want a guy who can build a dominant defensive unit for a relatively cheap price?

I'll wait for Ravens fans to jump all over me about this, but Zimmer is the Defensive Coordinator of the Year in the NFL, and Gruden is the Offensive Coordinator of the Year. I wouldn't be at all surprised of both of them are interviewing in multiple places come January.