There is a growing sense around the league that Hue Jackson could be in line to take over as Bengals head coach if Marvin Lewis were to retire or transition to an upper-management position.
The Bengals are in a free-fall (you can watch them play the Browns at 1 p.m. ET on CBS, stream on CBS All Access or fuboTV, try it for free) with Lewis's tenure already nearly coming to an end in recent years, and the recent hiring of Jackson is being viewed as a potential succession plan by several other owners and general managers who are preparing for their own coaching searches. Lewis and Jackson are very close and Jackson is very well thought of within the Bengals organization from his prior stints there. He is a favorite of Bengals owner Mike Brown, who tends to do things his own way, especially when it comes to coaching hiring and firings, and it would not be a surprise at all if this transition were to take place in 2019.
Some within the Bengals organizations believed that former defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was being groomed for that position this season, but with the team's defense performing at a historically poor rate, Lewis made the difficult decision to fire Austin, who is well regarded in NFL circles and has interviewed for numerous head coaching jobs himself. Lewis quickly moved to bring Jackson into the fold after he was fired by the Browns following a disastrous stint there, but the legitimacy of his potential as a head coach in Cincinnati should not be discounted.
Brown almost always hires from within the Bengals family of former coaches and players, and Jackson has already coached numerous position groups on both sides of the ball and served as a play caller for quarterback Andy Dalton. He knows the veteran players already, by and large, and Brown is comfortable with him. He has coached extensively within the AFC North (with stints at Cleveland and Baltimore in various capacities), and Brown generally is not prone to exhaustive and extensive coaching searches, preferring those he is already familiar with. Chiefs coordinator Eric Bieniemy, a former Bengals running back, is also likely to merit consideration should this head coaching position open up, I'm told.
The Bengals were leading their division in early October with a 4-1 mark, but have lost four of five games since, giving up 182 points in that span and putting their season in jeopardy. Lewis took over defensive play-calling duties last week, something he had not done in over a decade, and he and the Bengals have come very close to parting ways in recent years, or to a potential transition as well where Lewis remains in a different role. He is one of the longest tenured coaches in the league, but has not won a playoff game.