The Cincinnati Bengals have never won in 10 trips to Oakland, which is where they will open the season Sunday. But there is one member of the coaching staff who knows how to win there.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson led the Raiders to an 8-8 record in 2011, his first season as head coach.
And his last.
Even though Jackson led Oakland to what still stands as the franchise’s best mark since winning the AFC championship in 2002, he was fired less than a year after he was hired.
Sunday will be Jackson’s first trip back. And while he said he’s gotten over the firing, he admitted it took awhile.
“I’m not going to tell you that it didn’t,” he said. “That was hard. It took me probably a year. It did. You look back on the things you could have done better, and then we ended up playing that team the next year. So you go through all that process and seeing people you know and respect and love, people who fought with you and all that. And then you move on beyond that. Hopefully I did all that right, in a professional manner. And I know I did.”
Jackson went to Oakland as offensive coordinator in 2010 and was hired by Al Davis to be the head coach on Jan. 17, 2011. Davis died in October of that year. On the same day Reggie McKenzie took over as general manager – Jan. 11, 2012 – he fired Jackson.
“I knew what the consequences were when I took the job, and I understood what happened when I lost the job,” Jackson said. “Those things happen. You get hired in these jobs to someday get fired. You don’t want it to be that fast, but we did know that those things happen.”
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis brought Jackson back to Cincinnati to work with defensive backs and special teams.
Jackson admitted his emotions were still raw when the Raiders came to Cincinnati on Nov. 25, 2012, for a game that also marked former quarterback Carson Palmer’s return. And a fourth-quarter melee that led to three players getting ejected only stoked his fire.
But the hurt has healed and the emotions have cooled, which will make this year’s game less personal.
“It’s where we’re starting the season, so we’ve got to go,” he said. “At the end of the day, I have great respect for that team, that organization. A lot of the players there I don’t know now. Some I do. A lot I don’t. I do know the head coach (Jack Del Rio), and I have friends on that staff.”
Jackson is in his fourth year in his second stint the Bengals. He coached wide receivers from 2004-06 before becoming the offensive coordinator in Atlanta. When Bobby Petrino quit in the middle season and ownership fired the entire staff, Jackson went to Baltimore to be the quarterbacks coach, where he hand picked and developed Joe Flacco.
After one year working with defensive backs and special teams for the Bengals, Jackson coached running backs in 2013 and then took over as offensive coordinator when Jay Gruden left to be the head coach in Washington.
As negative as his dismissal was in Oakland, he said is thankful for the experience.
“I learned a lot about myself and how to handle things differently and handle them better,” he said. “I’m still my get-after-you, type-A personality person, but at the end of the day I knew there were some things that I could have done differently and better, and I’ve learned from that.
“They had to do what they had to do,” he added. “It’s ownership, and they made a decision and that’s fine. But we’ve all moved on from it, so here we go.”