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Following his brother's path

GEORGETOWN, Ky. — Jay Gruden has his older brother's voice, and their eyes have the same steely glint. Jay is bigger, has darker hair and more of a twisted smile than a sinister "Chucky" grimace.

"Jon's more edgy, grouchier too. Meaner," said the younger Gruden, new offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. "I'm a nice guy. I'm more laid-back. His tolerance level isn't as high as mine, and mine's pretty low."

Case in point: During an offensive meeting this week, one of the Bengals had the nerve to chomp on a mouthful of ice as Gruden was making a point. The coach asked him to kindly knock it off.

"Jon probably would have kicked him out," said Jay, 44, four years younger than his more famous brother. "See? I'm nicer."

Jon doesn't dispute that, but he is quick to point out his little brother isn't low-key.

"He's fiery as hell when the lights go on and [the] time is right," Jon said. "He's very confident and prepared. But he's probably got more control of his emotions than I do. I've always been a little irritable. I remember a girl was chewing gum and popping bubbles during the SAT test and I almost had a nervous breakdown."

There's a good chance Jay's patience will be tested by the sights and sounds of the Bengals this season. He might have the toughest assignment of this season's huge crop of new coordinators (19 of 32 teams have made at least one coordinator switch).

Quarterback Carson Palmer is gone.

So are receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens.

All this for a franchise that has had just two winning seasons in the last 20. Not only that, but there was no off-season to get rookie quarterback Andy Dalton up to speed, turning training camp into a mad scramble to install an offense.

That hasn't diminished Jay's enthusiasm for the challenge ahead.

"It's not like we don't have anything here," he said, leaning back behind a desk in a Bengals meeting room. "These guys are legitimate weapons, and these guys are legitimate players.

"Yes, it will be a challenge with whoever's on offense, and I don't think we can use any excuses. There's no excuse for us not to be great because we have great people here."

Jay Gruden's football experience is vast, even though his only previous NFL gig was as an offensive assistant to Jon in Tampa Bay from 2002 to '08. Jay threw for more than 7,000 yards as Louisville's quarterback from 1985 to '88, and later was a highly decorated player, then a player-coach, in the Arena Football League. For the last two years, he was a head coach in the fledgling United Football League.

"I never tried to kick any doors open by interviewing," said Gruden, hired to replace Bob Bratkowski, who was fired. "I never had to do a resume. I've always been content where I'm at."

He started to get nervous, though, as he saw how much the UFL was spending on its players, travel and accommodations — far too much for a league that wasn't attracting fans, TV deals or sponsors.

"I thought, 'Now, who is footing this bill?'" Gruden said. "I loved the UFL. It was a great experience. But I had to make a decision: Do I stay with this or look for a new job?"

Now, he's following the path of his brother, who was Philadelphia's offensive coordinator before Oakland gave him his first head coaching job in 1998.

Jon has moved on, of course, and is enjoying life as a color analyst for ESPN's "Monday Night Football."

"I always knew he'd be a good announcer," Jay said. "He used to announce all the games when we were kids: Nerf basketball games, football in the backyard, baseball. He knew everybody's name.

"I honestly think he could do a whole game by himself and nobody would miss anything. He could do the play-by-play, be the color guy, change his voices if he wanted to. He could do it all."

The Bengals don't have a Monday game, so Jon won't have to be in the potentially uncomfortable spot of critiquing his brother's offense.

To an extent, the Bengals wound up getting two Grudens for the price of one. Jay has Jon on speed dial, and the two talk or text at least a few times a week. Jay doesn't hesitate asking him for advice.

"If I had a question about offense, or what to do with a blitz, red zone, whatever, he'd be the first guy I'd call," he said. "And probably the only guy."


Five others to watch

Nineteen teams have at least one new coordinator this season, and four — Oakland, San Francisco, Carolina and Tennessee — have new coaches overseeing all three: offense, defense and special teams.

Josh McDaniels, St. Louis: Fired by the Broncos last fall, McDaniels landed on his feet with a good gig. Quarterback Sam Bradford, last season's offensive rookie of the year, is a rising star.

Darrell Bevell, Seattle: Brett Favre's favorite offensive coordinator is now with Pete Carroll in Seattle. Bevell will bring a Minnesota quarterback with him in the so-so Tarvaris Jackson.

Greg Manusky, San Diego: He spent the last four seasons as San Francisco's defensive coordinator and now assumes those duties in San Diego.

Juan Castillo, Philadelphia: This one's a bit of a head-scratcher. Castillo was the Eagles' longtime offensive line coach, and now the club has him running its defense. At least he played linebacker in the USFL.

Rob Ryan, Dallas: Although he wasn't the Cowboys' first choice, Ryan has the pedigree and the experience to run the Dallas defense.

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