Hue Jackson needed only a few weeks to land another job in the place where he’s always welcomed.
The Bengals hired Jackson on Tuesday as a special assistant to head coach Marvin Lewis as he tries to resurrect Cincinnati’s historically bad defense. Jackson was fired by the Cleveland Browns last month after he won only three games in three seasons as head coach.
As soon as Cleveland let him go, the Bengals showed an interest in Jackson, who begins his third stint with them.
In his latest role, he’ll help Lewis — a close friend — to try to fix the defense and save the season. Cincinnati (5-4) has lost three of its past four games and is on pace to give up the most yards in a season in NFL history. The Bengals have allowed 500 yards in three straight games, a first for any team in the Super Bowl era.
They fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Monday, with Lewis taking over as defensive coordinator in addition to his head coaching duties. Lewis said on Monday that there was a plan to help him do both jobs, but didn’t get specific.
The Bengals talked to Jackson about becoming Lewis’ special assistant, and he readily accepted the position.
“I have a great comfort level with Hue and his ability to assist me with the day-to-day responsibilities on defense, including analyzing our opponents and helping me on game days with the players and defensive coaches,” Lewis said.
Lewis hired Jackson in 2004 — his second season in Cincinnati — as receivers coach. He spent three years in the job before moving to the Falcons as offensive coordinator, developing a reputation for creativity. He was the Raiders’ offensive coordinator before moving up to head coach in 2011.
After his firing in Oakland, he returned to the Bengals in 2012 as a special assistant working with the defensive backs in 2012. He worked with the running backs in 2013 and was promoted to offensive coordinator a year later when Jay Gruden went to Washington.
The Bengals had one of their best years on offense in 2015, with Andy Dalton leading the AFC in passer rating. Jackson was hired by the Browns after the season
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam fired Jackson after a 33-18 loss in Pittsburgh, Cleveland’s 25th consecutive road defeat. Jackson wasn’t getting along with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who also was fired.
Even though Jackson will be working with the defense in his latest incarnation in Cincinnati, it’ll create an awkward dynamic. Dalton developed a close relationship with Jackson, who helped him to his greatest success in the NFL. Bill Lazor is in his first full season as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator.
The offense is missing receiver A.J. Green indefinitely with an injured toe on his right foot. The starting unit managed only one touchdown during a 51-14 loss to the Saints on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, even though New Orleans also has one of the league’s worst defenses.
The Bengals play at Baltimore (4-5) on Sunday, a game that’s pivotal for both teams. Pittsburgh (6-2-1) has started pulling away atop the AFC North. The Ravens have lost three straight games, and quarterback Joe Flacco has an injured hip that could keep him out of Sunday’s game.
Coach John Harbaugh said on Monday that he’ll decide later in the week if Flacco can play. If not, rookie Lamar Jackson will likely get his first NFL start.
The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest streak of postseason futility in NFL history. Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs, the worst coaching mark in league history.
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