He may have gotten 14 games under his belt as the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive coordinator last season, but that doesn’t mean that we have really gotten a taste for what Bill Lazor has in mind for the unit. Reports coming from Cincinnati early this offseason are claiming that he has basically come up with an entirely new playbook.
There is talk of hybridization between the Air Coryell style of yore and the roots of the West Coast offense, and Lazor is spending as much time as he is allowed indoctrinating his men into the new system that he expects them to run.
“The best way to get their attention is to start with what they don’t know”, the Bengals’ offensive coordinator said of the first days of Phase One of the offseason program, according to an article on the team’s website. “I thought it was a pretty good attention getter. It sounds like it got their attention”.
Both the Coryell and West Coast offensive shells have seen their time as the primary mode of operation in Cincinnati’s history, but Lazor plans to mix and match what he feels best matches what his players are able to do. Even his quarterback is finding it difficult to identify similarities in what he has known from the past seven years.
“Everything is different”, Andy Dalton said of the playbook his offensive coordinator presented to him this offseason. “The numbers, the concepts, you name it”, it’s a new experience for the Pro Bowler. It certainly rings familiar to the first season of Todd Haley at the helm with the Pittsburgh Steelers, when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joked he would need a Rosetta Stone program to translate it.
The playbook isn’t the only thing that is new, either. Dalton’s also got a new quarterbacks coach in Alex Van Pelt, coming over from the Green Bay Packers, where he worked with Aaron Rodgers. Lazor was the quarterbacks coach at the beginning of last season before the team fired Ken Zampese two games into the year and Lazor replaced him as offensive coordinator.
Part of the change in the offense is going to be a more up-tempo rhythm, getting to the line of scrimmage more quickly and getting plays off, which is part of the reason that they are switching to a numbers system again for calling plays, which was introduced when Hue Jackson was the offensive coordinator.
In fact, Lazor seemed to mention or allude to Jackson a couple of times in discussing his offense for this upcoming season, so that even while he may be doing some new things, it might also more closely resemble what the predecessor to his predecessor was doing.
As he said above, he is throwing the new stuff at them now. The more familiar stuff is what they don’t have to learn, and will come later. There will of course be changes, but he is not exactly creating an entirely new offensive system, rather reworking old templates.