The Bengal “Gabbies” are handed out at the conclusion of the season in recognition of those individuals that made outstanding contributions to the Bengals’ season. Next up is the Bill Walsh Gabbie, awarded to the best assistant coach of the 2009 season..
- Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander: Going into the 2009 season, the offensive line looked to be the biggest question mark for the team. Only RG Bobbie Williams returned at the same position from the previous year. Andrew Whitworth, a guard, was moved to left tackle, and the team started a fairly untested guard combination on the left side in free agent Evan Mathis and undrafted second year player Nate Livings. Additionally, the team went with Kyle Cook, another second year undrafted free agent, at Center. Then first round pick OT Andre Smith held out, showed up late, and proceeded to break his foot in his first practice as a Bengal. This forced another undrafted player, Dennis Roland, into a starting role. Nonetheless, this motley crew of rag-tag also-rans managed to become a strength on the team, and helped the Bengals revitalize their sagging running game. Thanks to the superb coaching provided by Alexander and assistant Bob Surace, the offensive line provided a pleasant surprise to team observers, and they should continue to improve in 2010 under Alexander’s tutelage.
- Running Backs Coach Jim Anderson: Anderson oversaw a stellar season for Bengal running backs. Bell-cow back Cedric Benson finished with over 1200 yards, and his punishing and aggressive style helped the Bengals batter opponents and win the time of possession battle. In addition to Benson’s team-record 6 100+ yard games, rookie Bernard Scott and vet Larry Johnson each contributed with a 100+ yard game of their own. Third down back Brian Leonard provided the team with excellent blocking and pass catching out of the backfield, giving the team an extra element that had been lacking in recent years. Anderson also helped revive FB Jeremi Johnson’s career, and is making excellent progress with rookie FB Fui Vakapuna. All in all, another marvelous season from the very talented Anderson.
- Defensive Backs Coach Kevin Coyle: The Bengals defense was a strength this year, and the strongest area of the defense was in the secondary. Coyle helped cornerbacks Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall have pro-bowl caliber seasons, each recording six interceptions. Coyle also oversaw the best safety play in years with Chris Crocker, Roy Williams, and Chinedum Ndukwe. Coyle also did an excellent job in preparing rookie Morgan Trent for action early in his rookie campaign. The former Michigan Wolverine played a key role in nickel and dime packages while David Jones recovered from various injuries.
And the winner is:
Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer
The Bengals ranked near the bottom in most defensive categories when Mike Zimmer came on board prior to the 2008 season. By the end of that year, he had the team in the teens. In 2009, they moved into the top 10 in nearly every category, often being forced to carry the sometimes-inept offense on their shoulders. Zimmer’s “in your face” style resonates with players and his straight talk approach gets results.
The Bengals finished 2009 fourth in the league in total defense, 6th in passing defense, 7th in rushing defense, and 6th in scoring defense. They finished 9th in interceptions and 16th in sacks; not bad considering the “scrap heap” defense consisted mostly of cast-offs and guys other teams had called washed up.
Most impressively, Zimmer was able to do all of this despite the shocking death of his wife Vicki during mid-season. His ability to focus on the team and do his job under such circumstances should not be overlooked in any assessment of his body of work.
Marvin Lewis is known as a defensive coach, and while he’s run into difficulties building a defense in his image in years past thanks to player issues and coordinator changes, it seems he’s finally got his man in Mike Zimmer.
Bengals Gab congratulates Mike Zimmer, the 2009 Bill Walsh Award Winner!
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About Bill Walsh: The Bengals Gab Assistant Coach of the Year Award is named after all-time coaching legend Bill Walsh. Most football fans know Walsh as the creator of the West Coast Offense, which he used to take San Francisco to three Super Bowl titles, two of which came at the expense of the Bengals. What is not commonly known is that Walsh developed the principles of the offense while working as an assistant coach for Paul Brown in Cincinnati. When Brown retired, he chose to hand the coaching reigns to Tiger Johnson, and Walsh moved on to San Francisco. Most Bengals fans wonder what would have happened had Brown, who rarely made mistakes, had chosen Walsh as his successor. He is clearly the most accomplished coach to have ever served as an assistant in Cincinnati.
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