Judging head coaches is much different than evaluating a player. Head coaches cannot be assessed simply by a win/loss record (although, that does factor into the equation). How has this coach developed his players? How well does he prepare for games? How has he drafted? How does he overcome injury to his team? How does he handle players with ‘character issues’? How effectively does he run his team? All of these things come into play when you want to find out what a coach is really made of. With all of these things in mind, I will now break down my top 5 all-time head coaches of the Cincinnati Bengals franchise.
5. Bill “Tiger” Johnson (1976 – 78)
Tiger was one of the many disciples of the legendary Paul Brown. Not many people know what kind of great football mind Johnson had. He was one of the initial developers of the now widely used ‘west coast offense’. Johnson played center for the 49ers before becoming a coach and one day had a great idea for his quarterback who was constantly getting pressured on his 5-step drop. Johnson told him to take three steps instead and get the ball away quickly. This idea turned out to be the foundation of the later developed ‘west coast offense’. He later worked with Paul Brown and Sam Wyche to compile ideas and get this offense up and running.
As a coach, Johnson had a couple good seasons with the Bengals. He led the team to two winning seasons in a row (which is impressive looking back in Bengals history). In his first year as head coach in 1976 after being declared the successor to Paul Brown upon his retirement, Johnson led the Bengals to a 10-4 record. The next season in 1977 he went 8-6. Unfortunately, he started out 0-5 in 1978 and decided to resign. Overall, he ended up with an 18-15 record with the Bengals through his two and a third seasons.