For today’s edition of Forgotten Coaches, we move towards more recent times on the list as we take a look at a coach who had success early on during both of his stints as a head coach, but wasn’t able to accomplish much. This former coach was also a former tight end in the NFL. Today’s edition of Forgotten Coaches focuses on former Bengals and Jets Head Coach Bruce Coslet.
Much like many head coaches in the NFL, both past and present, Coslet was indeed a former player. A former player from Pacific University, Coslet played eight seasons in the AFL, then NFL, as part of the Cincinnati Bengals. Coslet’s best season as a player was 1971 when he had 21 catches for 356 yards and four touchdowns. His playing career ended after the 1976 season.
Coslet joined the coaching staff of the Bengals in 1981, becoming their tight end coach. Two seasons later, he was in charge of the passing game and finally in 1986, Coslet was named offensive coordinator.
The 1988 season was Coslet’s best as coordinator as the Bengals, coached by Sam Wyche, made it all the way to the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately, the Bengals would lose Superbowl XXIII (that’s 23) to some team called the 49ers. I’ll leave it to the YouTube clip to describe what happened.
One of the things that Bengals team was able to contribute was the no huddle offense. In 1988, the Bengals were one of the top offenses in the NFL. They were first in points, yards, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.
The Bengals missed out on the playoffs in 1989, finishing the season 8-8. However, they were still one of the top offenses in the NFL at that point. Naturally, it makes sense that Coslet would be an interesting candidate for teams looking to hire a new head coach.
Coslet transitioned from Boomer Esiason to Ken O’Brien. Also of note, the Jets rookie running back that season was Blair Thomas.
In Coslet’s first season, the team finished with a 6-10 record.
The Jets struggled early in 1991, losing three of their first four games, including an overtime loss to the Chicago Bears in week four. The Jets went 7-5 the rest of the way and clinched a wild card berth for the playoffs.
New York faced the Houston Oilers, led by quarterback Warren Moon in the wild card round. The Jets lost the game 17-10.
O’Brien was named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career in 1991.
It was no doubt a successful year for Coslet and the Jets. However, it would be Coslet’s only playoff appearance as a head coach.
The 1992 season wasn’t a very good one for the Jets. It wasn’t a good start as O’Brien had held out to try and get a contract extension. Coslet opted to go with Browning Nagel, a second-year player at that point, as the starting quarterback.
Nagle started most of those games that season. However, O’Brien was able to see some playing time. O’Brien was traded in the offseason to the Green Bay Packers.
Coslet would bring in Esiason from Cincy. The Jets finished 8-8 in 1993, however that would be good enough for third place, behind Buffalo and Miami.
Coslet was fired after the 1993 season. Pete Carroll would take over as head coach from there.
It would be a homecoming for Coslet as he came back to the Bengals to be the offensive coordinator once again, but this time he would do so with Dave Shula as his boss. The 1994 season flat out stunk for the Bengals as they finished the year 3-13.
The ’95 season went slightly better for Cincy. They started out the year with an overtime upset of the Indianapolis Colts and followed up the next week with a win over the new expansion team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bengals then lost four straight games to fall to 2-4. Cincy would go 5-5 the rest of the way and finish 7-9, tying them for second in the AFC Central, along with the Houston Oilers.
Coslet would get the opportunity to be head coach during the ’96 season. Shula was fired after the team started the season 1-6.
Sure enough, the first week following Shula’s firing, the Bengals defeated Jacksonville, 28-21, thanks to two Ki-Jana Carter touchdown runs. They would follow that with wins over Baltimore and Pittsburgh. By the end of the season, Coslet had led the Bengals to an 8-8 record.
Before the end of the season, Coslet was rewarded with a four-year contract to be Bengals Head Coach.
The very next season, Cincinnati finished with a 7-9 record. Things didn’t go too well for the ’98 and ’99 season as those Bengals teams combined to win seven games. Of course, ’99 was the year Cincy drafted Akili Smith. Not really sure I can say much additional stuff about this.
Coslet resigned from the team after starting the 2000 season 0-3. Dick LeBeau took over as head coach.
Coslet would get one more chance as an assistant, working as offensive coordinator for Dave Campo at Dallas in 2002. However, Coslet lasted just one season as Bill Parcells took over the next season.
No doubt, Coslet had his fair share of opportunities to succeed in the NFL. But the successes he had never sustained into a very long career.
I should note that while I was looking for a Coslet picture, I came across this little EBay posting. I don’t know if you guys have $3.53 to spend (shipping and handling included), but it could be a good investment.
Stats and info via Pro Football Reference and articles via Google News