Darrin Simmons is in his 13th season leading the coaching of Cincinnati’s special teams, and for the third straight season in 2015, he carries the title of special teams coordinator.
“It has been a well-deserved upgrade,” head coach Marvin Lewis said of the 2013 title change. “It reflects the importance of special teams in constructing a winning club and also reflects the great job Darrin has done for us.”
In 2015, the Bengals again had some of the NFL’s best special teams units and individuals. The team finished with top 10 NFL rankings in gross punting average (third at 46.8), kickoff return average (fourth at 27.6), net punting average (fifth at 42.1) punt return average (seventh at 11.0) and punt coverage (10th at 7.5).
Individually, CB Adam Jones and P Kevin Huber shared the special teams spotlight.
Jones claimed the franchise’s first NFL kickoff return title, averaging 31.3 yards. It reset the franchise record by more than six yards. And in punt returns, Jones finished second in the NFL at 12.0, just missing a bid to become the first player in 22 years to lead the league in both KOR and PR. Jones earned the kick returner spot on the prestigious Associated Press All-Pro team.
“Darrin has helped me a lot,” Jones says. “About ball control and going up and making hard catches. Just believing in myself to make the play for the team. He has shown tremendous confidence in me. His preparation for the opponent is unbelievable. If anyone is half-decent on special teams, Darrin knows about him..”
Huber, who debuted in the NFL under Simmons in 2009, continued his rise to among the league’s top punters. He earned his first Pro Bowl berth in 2014, finishing fourth in the NFL in gross average (46.8) and fifth in net (42.1). In both categories, Huber re-set franchise marks he already held, and he is Cincinnati’s career leader in both gross and net averages.
Also individually last season, K Mike Nugent had another solid year, including the second-longest postseason field goal in NFL history (57 yards), and LS Clark Harris continued his perfect career performance, now covering six seasons, in avoiding any unplayable snaps.
In the long-established special teams rankings done annually by the Dallas Morning News, incorporating 22 categories of special teams play, the Bengals ranked sixth in the NFL in 2014. In 2012, Simmons’ units ranked second.
Simmons’ Bengals special teams have shown a nose for the ball, forcing 25 fumbles in his 12 completed seasons. The 2.1 average more than doubles the 1.0 norm for the nine seasons prior to his tenure.
Simmons entered the NFL in the 1998 season on the same Baltimore Ravens staff as Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who was Ravens defensive coordinator at the time. Simmons was assistant special teams coach and assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Ravens, and he held that same role for the Carolina Panthers from 1999-2002. He joined the Bengals in 2003.
A former college punter himself, Simmons played an integral role at Carolina in the development of Todd Sauerbrun as one of the NFL’s top punters of the time.
Simmons began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Kansas University in 1996. He moved to the University of Minnesota in 1997.
Simmons punted in college for Kansas from 1993-95, earning All-Big Eight honors his final year. As a senior, he helped the Jayhawks to a top 10 national ranking and to an Aloha Bowl victory over UCLA. Also as a Kansas senior, he won honors as an academic All-American.
Prior to playing for Kansas, Simmons was a punter and QB for Dodge City (Kan.) Community College. In 1992 at Dodge City, he led the nation’s junior colleges in punting and was a first-team JUCO All-American.
Simmons earned a degree in sports management from Kansas in 1996.
Born April 9, 1973, in Elkhart, Kan., he graduated from Elkhart High School. He and his wife, Rhonda, have a daughter and two sons.
Playing and coaching history: 1991-92—Played quarterback and punter, Dodge City (Kan.) Community College. 1993-95—Played punter, Kansas. 1996—Graduate assistant, Kansas. 1997—Assistant coach (AC), University of Minnesota. 1998—AC, Baltimore Ravens. 1999-2002—AC, Carolina Panthers. 2003-12—AC, Cincinnati Bengals. 2013-present—Special teams coordinator, Bengals.
Darrin Simmons, who goes back home to Kansas and the family farm each summer, is the only special teams coordinator Marvin Lewis has ever had till all ends of the roster. Now that director of player personnel Duke Tobin is out in the open Simmons may be the most underrated figure on staff and that’s why we sat down with him recently for a Hobson’s Choice Podcast.
Bengals.com is devoting this week to honoring the best in Bengaldom this past season: MVP, Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and Assistant Coach of the Year
Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons just got done with one harvest and his farmer's eye is squinting at another. The NFL cutdown date of Aug. 31 is now a tense two weeks away.
Darrin Simmons isn't married to the stopwatch, but he's been pretty serious about it and after his sweet 16th NFL Scouting Combine this week the Bengals special teams coach continues to be adamant about speed.