Scratch another one off the list for the St. Louis Rams. Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden says that he will not interview for head coaching vacancies for the 2012 season, according to Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network. The Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars had expressed interest in interviewing Gruden.
After turning around Cincinnati's offense and coaching Andy Dalton into consideration for the Rookie of the Year Award, Gruden's name emerged as one of this season's so-called hot coordinators, a guy seen by some, mostly in the media, as a viable candidate for head coaching jobs.
For the Rams, he had a certain appeal in bringing a West Coast Offense and his success working with a young quarterback. Those two factors, on the surface anyway, match up with the team's need to get Sam Bradford back on track in his third season in the league.
It's good news for the Bengals. Anticipating the Rams interviewing Gruden later this week, I reached out to Josh Kirkendall at Cincy Jungle, SB Nation's Bengals community, for more on Gruden. Here's what he told me. It should be pretty clear that Gruden does have a future as a head coach, whenever he's ready to head down that path.
What did Jay Gruden do this season that has put him on the map as a head coaching candidate?
Truth is Gruden did a lot. With a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton, paired with a rookie wide receiver in A.J. Green, Gruden needed to implement an entirely new offensive philosophy during a lockout that prevented coaches from speaking with their players.
Eventually Andy Dalton and A.J. Green broke franchise rookie records and Dalton put together the fifth-most passing yards by a rookie in NFL history. Additionally the Bengals offense generated four fourth-quarter comeback wins this year, largely due to timely play-calling and the use of his personnel.
Though Cincinnati's offense only ranked 20th in the NFL, what Gruden did to get everyone on the same page without an offseason and rookies playing at key positions, drew plenty of interest around the league.
Describe his approach to the offense?
Strong roots with the West Coast offense, using variations that incorporate a modern approach with deeper timing routes. You'll have your slants, hitches, quick outs, shallow crosses and an assortment of screens, but also deep post and fade routes early within the progression.
Rushing the football has been problematic for this team, but those were more execution and personnel issues. One knock on Gruden however is the tendency to run the football on first down; the Bengals ran the football on first and ten nearly 57 percent of the time, no matter the score or quarter it was called.
How much credit does he deserve for Andy Dalton's success this season? What did he do to help the rookie QB?
Gruden eased Dalton into the system, rather than throwing the entire playbook into the quarterback's lap. Every week Gruden would give Dalton a little more. Additionally the routes and passing plays were fairly vanilla and simplistic, often with quick drops and limited progressions. When Cincinnati was facing deficits, they tend to open the playbook more with longer developing routes, which usually ended very poorly.
But for the most part, Gruden approached Dalton as a rookie (as he should) and built the offense around that.
Were you able to get a sense of his approach and leadership style after one season as OC in Cincy?
From my limited perspective, Gruden has no problem speaking his mind, especially if a player calls him out. For example Cedric Benson complained on Monday that the offense just didn't care about the running game. The truth is Benson was irritated with a reduced role within the offense because his backup, Bernard Scott, experienced an increase of playing time this year. Gruden responded that Benson should worry more about the success of the team rather than himself.