I don’t think it’s hard to imagine the Cincinnati Bengals offense taking a bit of a step back in the 2016 season following the losses of two of their top wide receivers in Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu, and perhaps even more significantly, the departure of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who took the head coaching job in Cleveland.
But there is no reason to anticipate a precipitous decline by any means, and not just because the offense still has the likes of AJ Green and Tylier Eifert at its disposal. Taking over the reins as offensive coordinator is Ken Zampese, who most importantly has worked with quarterback Andy Dalton every step of the way in his career.
Zampese had been the Bengals’ quarterbacks coach since the 2003 season, dating back all the way to the Carson Palmer era, before being promoted to offensive coordinator this offseason after Jackson left to assume the head coaching vacancy with the Browns.
Having previously worked with the Rams’ wide receivers during the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ era, the Zampese family coaching tree actually extends back to his father, Ernie Zampese, who was integral in installing Don Coryell’s innovative offense with the Chargers in the 1970s.
Of course, a father’s credentials are not that of his son’s, but Dalton’s steady and consistent improvement over the course of his career after already entering the league with the ‘game manager’ label being tagged on his head is certainly something for which he deserves a good deal of credit.
Zampese has spent the past four years working with, or under, in the case of the past two seasons, Jackson, and learning how he built the Bengals’ offense. He also worked under Mike Martz and quarterback Kurt Warner, and was given the title of “passing game coordinator” in 2002.
Joining the Bengals in 2003, the year Palmer was drafted, it was the veteran Jon Kitna who started that year, and in the process, he earned the honor of being named Comeback Player of the Year following having the best season of his career.
Palmer took over in 2004 and began what looked to be a turnaround. The Bengals won the division in 2005, but we as Steelers fans know what happened during the playoffs. Despite receiving Pro Bowl accolades that year and the following year, mounting injuries limited his effectiveness during his tenure in Cincinnati.
With Dalton under center, however, the Bengals have made the playoffs five straight seasons, and Zampese even got as much as he could out of AJ McCarron after Dalton suffered a thumb injury against the Steelers in the teams’ second matchup of the season.
Zampese is a life-long coach who has been in the profession at the NFL level since 1998, and has worked at the collegiate level or above since 1990. The man is far from a neophyte, even if this is his first post as an offensive coordinator. He has the bloodline, as well as the mentorship, and the offense, to succeed.