Bengals' Joe Burrow, Dan Pitcher confident with continuity

CINCINNATI -- Bengals coach Zac Taylor doesn't remember the exact moment he knew Dan Pitcher was a quality coach.

But the first interaction still sticks out vividly.

During Taylor's one-year tenure as the University of Cincinnati's offensive coordinator, he remembers staying in the same hotel as the Bengals the night before a preseason game. When he entered the boardroom for a meeting with then-Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, Pitcher was also in the room.

At the time in 2016, Pitcher was just embarking on his journey with the Bengals as an offensive assistant coach. On Thursday, Taylor and Pitcher found themselves again in the same room under very different circumstances. Pitcher, 37, was introduced as the team's new offensive coordinator. He replaces Brian Callahan, who held the position for five seasons before becoming the Tennessee Titans' head coach Monday.

It represents the latest promotion in Pitcher's eight-year tenure with the franchise. It also establishes continuity for Taylor and quarterback Joe Burrow.

"Dan's role has really evolved," Taylor said. "Yeah, he's been the quarterback coach, but that role has really evolved and given him more. He's been a bigger voice as the years have gone by, and so it was a natural progression to make him the coordinator once Brian left."

Pitcher was initially hired by former coach Marvin Lewis, who tasked Pitcher to be an assistant wide receivers coach. When Taylor took over in 2019, he remembers several people reaching out to vouch for Pitcher and what he could bring to the new coaching staff.

"When I got the job," Taylor said, "a bunch of people reached out and said, 'This is someone you should hold on to. He's someone who's got a great future and would fit really well with demeanor and all those things.'"

Pitcher described Cincinnati as "home" because of his spectrum of experiences throughout his time with the Bengals. He was with the club during the coaching transition from Lewis to Taylor that included finishing with the league's worst record in 2019, Taylor's first season.

But in 2020, those struggles netted Burrow, the top overall pick in that year's draft. Two months earlier, Pitcher was promoted to be the team's quarterback coach. When the team formally announced Pitcher as the Bengals' offensive coordinator, the news release included a statement from Burrow that spoke to their relationship.

"Our relationship is as good as it gets," Burrow said. "I wouldn't be the player I am today without him. He's been preparing for this for years. He takes his job very seriously and does it with a lot of passion."

The infrastructure of Cincinnati's offense was highlighted when Burrow suffered a season-ending right wrist injury in a Week 11 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. From Week 12 to the end of the season, Cincinnati ranked 12th in points per drive behind quarterback Jake Browning, who won four games as a starter.

Working with Burrow was part of the allure for Pitcher to remain in Cincinnati, despite overtures from other teams over the past two offseasons. Last year, he interviewed to be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive coordinator. This year, he had interest from other clubs as well but decided to stick with Burrow.

"They don't make many like him," Pitcher said. "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."

Taylor didn't have any concrete updates on Burrow's recovery status following surgery to repair a torn wrist ligament in his throwing hand. Taylor did say that Burrow has been around the team facility and "everything has been positive."

Burrow might have a new offensive coordinator, but it's someone who has helped him turn the Bengals into a perennial championship contender.

"I couldn't have asked for a more ideal situation," Pitcher said, "and I love the fact that I get to keep working with him."