The once consistent and reliable defense for the Cincinnati Bengals of the previous two seasons looked like a shell of its former self in 2023. Ranking in the bottom 10 of EPA/play allowed and DVOA was one of many disappointments for Cincinnati this season.
Having Super Bowl aspirations after getting so close the past two years created an all-or-nothing feeling for key members of the roster and coaching staff. The core of the team could only stay together for so long before new contracts and promotions would be in order.
Thanks to a down year for the defense, at least one of those core members of the coaching staff seems to be sticking around in defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo.
Minimal interest around the NFL in Lou Anarumo
The Bengals were sweating bullets 11 months ago when Anarumo was in the running to become the next head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Two years of shutting down the game’s best quarterbacks in the regular season and playoffs alike had Anarumo atop the list of the hottest head coaching candidates.
Anarumo made it to the final two in Arizona’s search. The Cardinals ultimately hired Philadelphia Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon over Anarumo right after the Eagles gave up 38 points in the Super Bowl, which was played in the Cardinals’ stadium.
One of the most respected defensive play-callers coming back to Cincinnati for another year with Joe Burrow and Co. on the other side of the ball? That’s how you garner favorable Super Bowl odds.
Another great year and playoff run would’ve had Anarumo right back in the conversation to take over a team of his own. The beast of the NFL chewed up and spit out the Bengals instead. Injuries to Burrow and inexperience in Anarumo’s secondary led to a 9-8 record and elimination from playoff contention in Week 17.
Instead of Anarumo getting calls from around the league, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan has been requested by four different teams to interview for their head coaching jobs. Half of the clubs who fired their head coach have recognized Callahan has a critical factor in the Bengals’ offense surviving without Burrow towards the end of the season.
Anarumo, meanwhile, has had no reported interview requests. His defensive staff all looks to be staying in Paycor Stadium with him.
Defensive coordinators have recently been getting fewer and fewer chances at becoming head coaches around the league, but that’s not a valid reason for Anarumo’s phone staying silent this month. Dan Quinn, Ejiro Evero, and Raheem Morris are all defensive coordinators who’ve garnered interest from hiring clubs this cycle. Anarumo himself lost out to a DC just last year.
The lack of interest seems to be directly correlated to the results from this season. It’s unfortunate for the 57-year old assistant, but very lucky for the Bengals.
Anarumo has proven to be one of the best at what he does. That remained the case when the team was at full strength this season, holding the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills to 17 and 18 points, respectively, in back-to-back weeks. Issues in allowing explosive plays all year long were evidently more to do with personnel rather than scheme.
The Bengals’ defense was undoubtably underwhelming for their standards, but the unit is better with Anarumo pulling the strings. Cincinnati should be fortunate that the rest of the league doesn’t seem interested in stealing him away just yet.