Cincinnati Bengals: Anarumo gets opportunity he was looking for

Veteran assistant coach is team’s new defensive coordinator

Lou Anarumo served as an interim defensive coordinator for part of the 2015 season with the Miami Dolphins, but it had been a few years since he had interviewed for a chance at a full-time coordinator job when the Cincinnati Bengals came calling.

The Bengals announced Anarumo, 52, as their new defensive coordinator on Thursday, ending a 17-day search that followed the hiring of head coach Zac Taylor on Feb. 4. Anarumo comes to Cincinnati from the New York Giants, where he served as defensive backs coach in 2018, following a six-year stay as defensive backs coach for the Dolphins.

Anarumo had interviewed for coordinator jobs with the Jaguars and 49ers before and had faith he would get another shot. Neither he, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan nor Taylor have a full year of experience in their current role, but Anarumo has been coaching for almost three decades, including 20 years at the college level before his stint with the Dolphins.

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“You never know,” Anarumo said when asked if he worried he would never get a shot again as a coordinator. “The league is so volatile, that one day it’s this and the next day there’s the door, so concern, no, because I do value myself, I value the work ethic I have and I am certainly not a guy that has an ego or anything like that, but I just know I am a good guy that works hard, respects people and you’d like to think at some point you’d get a shot. That’s kind of how I approached it.”

Taylor and Anarumo had worked together in Miami during the 2012 to 2015 seasons, both finishing the 2015 campaign as coordinators. Anarumo was the interim defensive coordinator for those final 12 games, while Taylor served as offensive coordinator for the last five.

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The two had never talked about working together again should one be in a position to make such a decision, but Taylor always had him in mind.

“He built a great relationship with his players, and then was able to demand the best from them,” Taylor said. “As a quarterbacks coach who went against his DBs and then as a coordinator that went against his defense, I always saw great detail in the technique and the back end always did a great job of communication and that always starts with the DBs coach and then the coordinator, when he was the coordinator. I always thought the world of Lou. When you’re on the offensive side of the ball and you go against him every single day, it was clear-cut that he was a good teacher and communicator and solid with his scheme when he was the coordinator.”

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Reports indicated the Bengals had considered and tried to hire a few other coaches prior to settling on Anarumo, but Taylor said the process was just about being patient and finding the right guy in Anarumo.

Anarumo said he was aware Taylor had been hired as the Bengals’ coach but hadn’t spoken to him about the possibility of joining his staff until about a week ago. He flew into Cincinnati on Thursday morning and joked he didn’t bring enough clothes.

“It’s like any profession, you have goals,” he said. “We all do. This was certainly one of them. I’m really looking forward to it, to dive into it with both feet and work with great people. Zac and Mr. (Mike) Brown have been great. It’s exciting.”

With the NFL Combine just days away, the Bengals should be relieved to have made a hire. Taylor said there was no deadline in his mind for when he needed a defensive coordinator in place, but it certainly helps to have it done before the biggest scouting event for the league. The Combine takes place Feb. 26 through March 4 in Indianapolis.

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Anarumo said he doesn’t feel like he’s in any time crunch to catch up for draft preparations because he had been looking at players with the Giants before signing on with the Bengals.

“I’m more worried about diving into this place,” Anarumo said. “I’ve been in the process for the Combine, getting ready for that, so I’m not missing a beat there. It’s just getting to know these guys. I know who Geno Atkins is, I know who Carlos Dunlap is, I know Dre Kirkpatrick. I want to know these other guys and dive into who they are and what makes them tick and really focus on that, because that’s what is going to make us a winning franchise is getting to know them and getting them to play at their highest level.”

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