Sunday’s match-up against the Jacksonville Jaguars will feature a very familiar face for the Cincinnati Bengals. Roaming the opposite sideline will be the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator, Bob Bratkowski. Many remember the much-maligned Bengals offensive coordinator’s decade in Cincinnati as one with a run of a few spectacular years sandwiched between mediocrity.
When in Cincinnati, he was often criticized for his offensive system, but even more so his predictable play-calling. A deteriorating offensive line did not help a offensive playbook that contains many slow-developing plays.
His offensive system has also been accused of being staid and ineffective. He runs a variation of the Don Coryell-based attack that has inspired so many offenses over the years. While many of his concepts are older, they are also time-tested.
Keep in mind that he runs many of the same route concepts that he practiced under Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt and current Jaguars’ head coach Mike Mularkey in Pittsburgh. Similar systems include Bruce Arians in Pittsburgh and now with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, as well as Norv Turner’s offense.
Peyton Manning has run the same offense during his entire career, with a playbook consisting of mainly four passing plays. The trick is the option routes, adjusted based on coverage. Remember all the interceptions that led directly to Carson Palmer exasperatedly yelling at Chad Ochocinco? Many times those were a result of Chad not properly diagnosing coverage in order to adjust his route.
No matter how the defense aligns, Bratkowski likes to give the quarterback two plays or just one with options to adjust based on coverage. When just one play is called, his bread and butter is the hitch route, which can be effective against either man or zone coverage. The simplicity of the options, whether in audibles or play design, against a variety of coverage can benefit a young quarterback like Blaine Gabbert.
We will take a look at the similarities between the Bratkowski of Bengals’ yesteryear and the current version, and what wrinkles he has added over the ensuing years. Mike Zimmer spent a couple years squaring off against Bratkowski’s offense in practices and surely has an idea or two of how to combat it.
Examples used are against similar 4-3 defenses that the Bengals employ, with staggered safeties and a combination of man and zone coverage.