Bengals Offense In Good Hands Under Ken Zampese


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.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • blackandgoldBullion

    Air Coryell was magnificent to watch, especially early when football was still mostly 3 yards and cloud of dust. Just a breath of fresh air and fun. Little better defense and San Diego could have won more than 1 Super Bowl.

  • RickM

    I think their O will be definitely be a little weaker with the loss of the two targets. Jones had 65 catches last year, and while Sanu’s production dropped from 56 to 33 catches, they just had so many targets to throw to.

    Dalton has to prove himself in the playoffs – a major question mark – but I was wrong about him. I never saw him having the potential to post a 106.2 QB rating with a 25 to 7 TD to INT ratio. As you say he’s unfortunately moved beyond a game manager. As for Zampese, yes he did get a lot out of McCarron considering the guy hadn’t even thrown an NFL pass. That said, I just think their offense has to decline a little. Tough to believe Dalton can repeat his 2015 stats with the departure of almost 100 catches.

  • Steve

    Anytime a new coordinator is brought in changes will happen. With the loss of their two WR’s, it will take Cincy time, for Dalton to get the timing down and to get in sync in the passing game. Watch for new plays and a new look out of their offense.

  • dany

    Gotta give the bengals props for always keeping their coaching staff together unlike most teams. Before Dalton they had several losing/bad seasons and never hesitated to change much, and they’re reaping the benefits. Even then, though, I think marvin lewis is long overdue. Perhaps the reason he isn’t fired is the new coach would replace all these longtime assistant coaches

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think part of that will involve more two-tight end sets, which they liked to do in Eifert’s rookie year with Gresham still there. They like this Tyler Kroft kid they drafted last year, and I think he’ll be a bigger part of the offense this year.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think Lewis is going to hang it up in a couple years. I wrote an article earlier this offseason about a supposed plan that he and Hue Jackson wanted to put in place for a succession strategy, where Jackson would take over in two years, but Mike Brown wasn’t willing to put it in writing. So Jackson took the vacancy in Cleveland instead.

  • Matthew Marczi

    There will definitely be a feeling out process (there almost always is), but I do think they have pieces to replace them. They brought in Brandon LaFell and have pass-catching tight ends and backs in Eifert and Bernard, and I believe Tyler Kroft will be more involved in that aspect this year. Of course, they drafted Boyd, who will contribute as well. Most importantly, though, I believe Zampese will carry over most of Jackson’s offense, so there will be a level of comfort and familiarity there. Will Dalton put up the same numbers as he did last year? I certainly hope not.

  • Steve

    Head Coaches don’t last long in Cleveland.

  • Dustin Stroud

    they do if you win, aka shotty