CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor insists that while it might have appeared the team was struggling to find a defensive coordinator, the process played out just like it would have in any other situation.
The Bengals announced Lou Anarumo, 52, as their new defensive coordinator on Thursday, ending a 17-day search that followed the hiring of Taylor on Feb. 4 after his Super Bowl run with the Los Angeles Rams. 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.
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.
“From my standpoint it's been a thorough process,” Taylor said. “We said from the beginning we wanted to find the right person for this job and someone that fits the culture of what we're building and someone that is going to have the standards for their side of the ball that we want to have for every play in this building. Lou Anarumo is that person. I wouldn't say it was anything but patience on our end and making sure we talked to the right people and landed with the right guy, and we did, so I'm very encouraged by that.”
Taylor and Anarumo 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.
Anarumo interviewed for coordinator jobs with the Jaguars and 49ers a few years back, but that short time as the Dolphins’ interim DC was the only experience he’s had in that role at the NFL level. He had faith he would get another shot, he said, but wasn’t necessarily expecting it to come when he saw Taylor was hired as the Bengals’ head coach.
“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.”
“It's like any profession, you have goals," he added. “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.”
Anarumo only began talking with Taylor about a week ago and flew in to finalize things early Thursday morning.
Taylor said he always had Anarumo in mind, though.
“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.”
With the NFL Combine just days away, the Bengals should be relieved to have made a hire, but Taylor said there was no deadline in his mind for when he needed a defensive coordinator in place. Had Taylor been able to officially accept the job sooner – league rules prevented him from doing so until after the playoffs, and he was focused on the Super Bowl – he probably would have taken the same amount of time to hire someone, he said.
It certainly helps to have it done before the biggest scouting event for the league, though. The Combine takes place Feb. 26 through March 4 in Indianapolis, and one of the Bengals’ biggest needs is at linebacker.
“We don't play a game until September,” Taylor said. “Obviously, there is a personnel side of things that needs to be taken care of because of the draft, but I just wanted to make sure. This is a long-term hire, this guy is going to do great things here, so we wanted to make sure that no matter how many days it took we were going to find the right person, and today just happened to be that day, the finality of it.”
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.”
A native of Staten Island, N.Y., Anarumo has worked with various defenses and learned from different types of coaches. He has an idea how he would like to play, but said the personnel already in place will determine just what that looks like.
The one thing he knows for certain is he wants the defense to be versatile and use multiple schemes.
Anarumo coached at the college level for 20 years before his stint with the Dolphins, including stints as defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (1992-94), then later was assistant head coach at Harvard University (’95-2000), and defensive backs coach at both Marshall University (’01-03) and Purdue University (’04-11).
“I think you have core values and core ideas that you want to insert into a team, but we'd be foolish to say, 'Hey, these guys are good at this but we're going to try to do that,'” Anarumo said. “That's what I'm looking forward to in terms of jumping into - really watching these guys to see what they're good at and maximizing their strengths. If you don't have 3-4 personnel, if you don't have 4-3 personnel, it doesn't mean you can't do it. It just means you don't have to do it all the time. There's a balance there. And you just want to get to know these guys and then kind of fit the best scheme to them.”