‘This feels like home to me’ -- New offensive coordinator on staying with Bengals

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — Zac Taylor remembers when he was first hired as Cincinnati Bengals head coach how several people reached out to him endorsing Dan Pitcher as someone he should keep on his staff.

Everything they said about the Bengals quarterbacks coach proved to be true over the last five years, and Taylor wanted to do everything he could to keep him around. That included a contract extension last offseason and added responsibilities.

Now, it includes a promotion. As Pitcher was preparing to interview for three open offensive coordinator positions elsewhere this week, the opportunity to slide into that role in-house arose with Brian Callahan’s departure to become the Tennessee Titans’ new head coach.

A day after the Titans made official Callahan’s hire, the Bengals announced Pitcher as his replacement Thursday.

“It’s a position that he’s really earned,” Taylor said. “He’s been here longer than the five years I’ve been here, and I think he’s impressed us every step of the way and continued to take on more responsibility and played an integral part in really helping our quarterbacks have the success they’ve had over the last several years. Now he’ll just transition all that hard work into the OC position. I’m excited to work side by side with him and have a great year next year.”

Pitcher has been with the Bengals since 2016 when he joined Marvin Lewis’ staff as an offensive assistant. Taylor made him an assistant quarterbacks coach in 2019, then gave him responsibility of the position group in 2020 when Alex Van Pelt became the Browns’ offensive coordinator.

The former Division III SUNY Cortland quarterback was scheduled to interview with the Patriots, Saints and Raiders this week for their coordinator positions, but ultimately felt Cincinnati was the best fit.

“This has been a long time coming for me,” Pitcher said. “I’ve been a part of this organization now for eight years; this feels like home to me. There are people here, really at all levels in the building, that time and time again have shown belief in me, have offered me more and more opportunity and shown the faith that I can succeed in those roles and I’m very thankful in that. To me, this is just one more step in that journey and it’s something that I know I’m ready for. The plan is to just continue to prove those people right. I’m excited to get started.”

The 37-year-old also had offensive coordinator interviews last year, but it was clear the Bengals were grooming him for a bigger role with the expectation Callahan would eventually land a head coaching gig. Taylor was just glad the timing worked out with the Titans’ hiring Callahan while the Bengals could still offer Pitcher the job he might have taken elsewhere had the process extended out longer.

Taylor said it was important to keep a quality coach and “critical” to maintain some continuity after not having any coordinator changes in his first five seasons. Pitcher might have enjoyed the challenge of helping rebuild elsewhere but already did that with the Bengals and now looks forward to a chance in having a bigger responsibility in continued efforts to win championships.

“I think it’s rare that you get to be a part of something in one building where you see the lowest of the lows and highest of the highs,” Pitcher said. “When you kind of get to experience every step along that journey - the elation, the disappointment — to have to felt all of that in one place and experience that range of emotions, that’s home. That’s family. You just feel like you’ve grown and become who you are in that place, that place for me is here. I’m just really fortunate that I get to stay.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Joe Burrow credited Pitcher for helping him become the quarterback he is today.

In Pitcher’s four seasons as quarterbacks coach, Burrow set single-season team records for completions (414 in 2022), passing yards (4611 in ‘21), touchdown passes (35 in ‘22) and passer rating (108.3; ‘21), and over his last three seasons, he’s been among the best in the NFL.

Pitcher said a chance to continue to work with Burrow was another big reason he wanted to stay.

“It’s huge,” Pitcher said. “There are a lot of people in this profession that I respect who have great perspective who have reached out to me and almost to a person their advice is, ‘When you have an elite quarterback you hang on as long as you can,’ and we have that here. Not only is he an elite player, but I’ve gotten to know him so well as a person. He’s a special person. He’s different. They don’t make many like him, and to get to continue working with him day in and day out, knowing that we have a guy that can win us a world championship it’s hard to put a price on that.”

Pitcher also had a big hand in preparing Jake Browning for his first NFL starts and a 4-3 record after replacing Burrow following his wrist injury.

Asked what part of his job the last five years prepared him best for his new role, Pitcher said scheming for situational plays and third downs was helpful but more important was the chance to build relationships so he can better manage, lead and provide good vision to the players.

“With regard to my vision for the offense I mentioned the word adaptability before,” Pitcher said. “It’s something I believe in completely. You need to have the ability to pivot in a moment’s notice given different constraints that might be placed on you. I can’t sit here and say I see the offense moving in this specific direction. We have had a very good offense. We have dealt with some issues, particularly this past season, that made life a little bit harder on us than we are used to. But I fully believe in the foundation that we have and that we have the people in place to be one of the top offenses in football.”

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