Darrin Simmons is in his 12th season leading the coaching of Cincinnati’s special teams, and for the second straight season in 2014, 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.”
Last season’s special teams performance included a No. 5 NFL ranking in kickoff returns (25.1-yard average), and the Bengals ranked third in the AFC in average drive start (23.2 yard-line).
Simmons works intensively with the three “true specialist” positions on his unit — the punter, place kicker and long snapper — and all three positions have delivered top-drawer performances in recent years. Highlights from 2013 include:
● P Kevin Huber maintained his franchise career records in gross average, net average and ratio of inside-20 punts to touchbacks. Huber hit key late kicks in consecutive wins against New England, Buffalo and Detroit.
● K Mike Nugent delivered a solid season after missing the end of 2012 with an injury. Nugent hit game-winning FGs in consecutive games at Buffalo and Detroit, and he twice hit from 54 yards. Nugent was three-of-four overall on FG tries from 50 or more yards.
● LS Clark Harris continued his perfect career performance in avoiding any unplayable snaps.
Also in 2013, Brandon Tate posted the second-best kickoff return average (26.1) in Bengals history and moved into the franchise’s lead for career KOR average (24.8). Tate, who has worked with Simmons the last three seasons, also stands second in franchise history in career punt return average (9.9). The top punt returner in Bengals history, Quan Cosby (10.0), also was a Simmons pupil, playing in 2009-10.
Simmons last season helped develop two rookies — S Shawn Williams and LB Jayson DiManche — into the team’s 1-2 finishers in special teams tackles. And DE Carlos Dunlap blocked two FGs, the first Bengal with more than one blocked kick in a season since 1991.
In 2012, in the long-established special teams rankings done annually by the Dallas Morning News, incorporating 22 categories of special teams play, the Bengals ranked second in the league. Among the team’s highlight rankings were a third in lowest opponent net punting average, fourth in highest team net punting average and sixth in fewest yards allowed per kickoff return.
Simmons’ Bengals special teams have shown a nose for the ball, forcing 23 fumbles in his 11 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, Cincinnati Bengals.
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.