CINCINNATI -- Among the many responsibilities and obligations Hue Jackson will be taking on as the Cincinnati Bengals' new offensive coordinator, few may be as important as those that pertain to motivating his quarterback.
All this week, days after the team endured yet another premature postseason exit, concerns around Who Dey Nation have primarily revolved around Andy Dalton. Rightfully, his play has been questioned. The play of the offensive linemen and skill players around him has been questioned, too. A widespread belief arguing the end of Dalton's days as the franchise's signal-caller has surfaced, too. Change there, those arguing that point said, needed to come to make the offense better.
Change has arrived on offense. Just not that form of it.
With Thursday's news that Jackson would be promoted from running backs coach in the wake of Jay Gruden's departure to serve as Washington's head coach, the Bengals made it clear they felt it was time to get back to one of football's ancient truisms: using the run to dictate the pass.
So where does that leave Dalton? He'll still be a key part of the offense, Jackson contends, but it will be up to Dalton to start performing more consistently.
"Everybody's got to play better than they've played around Andy, and Andy has to continue to grow and get better at what he's doing," Jackson said.
Who does Jackson believe ought to help Dalton's growth? The coach himself.
"My charge in it all is to do everything I can to make sure when he gets to the game, be it in the classroom, out on the practice field and then on game days, that he can play free and without any hesitation, which will allow our offense play the same way," Jackson said.
To that end, part of Jackson's charge is to be the quarterback's primary cheerleader, critic and football confidant.
"I'm going to be the guy that pushes Andy, and Andy will push himself," Jackson said. "Andy is made of the right stuff and now we can see if we can get him where we want him to be."
Dalton was a little concerned Thursday morning about where exactly it was that Jackson wanted him in the system. So much so that when the two had their first conversation as offensive coordinator and quarterback, Dalton wanted to make sure the same terminology that he knew from Gruden's scheme would stay in place.
"His first question was if we were going to change the vocabulary," Jackson said. "We won't. We will tweak it and make it better."
Added head coach Marvin Lewis: "Same language. Same playbook. Same thing. ...He knows our nomenclature, our verbiage. We're not going to change out of that verbiage."
Those claims by Jackson and Lewis apparently were good enough for Dalton. In a statement released Thursday, he said he was excited to see the offense develop under his new coach.
"He's a coach we all know and respect, not just the running backs, and he'll bring a little different perspective that can help us move forward," Dalton said. "He's been around a lot of places in college and the NFL, part of some great offenses. So it looks very good to me, what we've got going forward."
Since Jackson and other coaches aren't permitted to work with players until voluntary workouts and OTAs and other league-sanctioned practices begin later this offseason, he's hoping Dalton and other players heard his message Friday. The Bengals will not only be physical runners next season, they also will play with an edge and competitiveness that hasn't been seen wholesale on their side of the ball in quite some time.
"This is my opportunity to talk to them through you," Jackson said to reporters. "I hope guys take a break from football, but also think about what we are chasing. Watching these [remaining playoff] games I'm sure is going to get them fired up. I'm sure they will chomp at the bit."
Among Bengals players, Jackson wouldn't mind if Dalton was the most perturbed while watching teams he beat once this season like the Colts, Chargers and Patriots continuing to play. That's because he knows he won't be happy witnessing them marching on through the playoffs.
"Me and Andy have to be joined at the hip, and the way I speak has to be the way Andy speaks," Jackson said. "He might say it a little different now and then, but the message will be clear. It has to be clear and kind of one voice. It can't be three, four or five different voices because all of a sudden you start to play that way; very inconsistent."