Bengals fire Bob Bratkowski

Updated: February 1, 2011, 8:47 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals fired longtime offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski on Monday, the first change in their coaching staff following a 4-12 season that is still reverberating through the franchise.

The move came two weeks after quarterback Carson Palmer asked to be traded because of the franchise's futility. The Bengals have only two winning records in the last 20 years.

"I want to thank Bob for his role in helping us win two division championships," coach Marvin Lewis said. "But after reviewing our season in depth, we've decided it's best for the team to make this change at this time."

Bratkowski has been the offensive coordinator since 2001, two years before Lewis took over as coach. The Bengals reached the playoffs in 2005 with a balanced offense that featured Palmer and a core of young receivers. Knee and elbow injuries limited Palmer over the next few years.

The Bengals made it back to the playoffs in 2009 after switching to a run-based offense that Lewis preferred. Their inability to throw the ball successfully in the playoffs prompted yet another philosophical switch -- Cincinnati signed receiver Terrell Owens at the start of training camp last July to team with receiver Chad Ochocinco.

The Bengals threw the ball a lot more and won a lot less, dropping 10 straight games. Owens complained about the coaching and said he wasn't getting the ball thrown his way enough. Running back Cedric Benson said the team made a mistake by going away from the run-first philosophy that got it to the playoffs in 2009.

Benson told the Cincinnati Enquirer on Monday that he was happy with the change.

"It's good to see them make some moves and it will help," Benson told the newspaper. "It will be a benefit in a positive way. It was a smart move that can benefit the team and everyone."

The season ended with Lewis unsure whether he wanted to stay -- his contract was up. After two days of discussions with owner Mike Brown, Lewis decided to stick around despite no significant changes in how the franchise operates.

After Lewis agreed to return, Palmer told Brown he wanted out. Brown said he's not inclined to trade the franchise quarterback.

The coaching staff was intact when it directed the North in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last week. The South beat the North 24-10 on Saturday.

Brown keeps assistant coaches even when he changes head coaches. Bratkowski was one of three offensive assistants with more tenure than Lewis: Paul Alexander has been offensive line coach for the last 16 years, and Jim Anderson has been running backs coach for 27 years.

Brown praised Bratkowski in a statement but added that "the time is right for us to make a change."

Cincinnati finished in the top 10 in rushing when it made the playoffs in 2009, but had the 26th-ranked passing game. That led the Bengals to draft tight end Jermaine Gresham and receiver Jordan Shipley and sign Owens, looking to throw the ball more effectively.

The passing game improved to 13th in the league last season, but the running game fell to 27th as the Bengals often found themselves throwing the ball to try to catch up.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.