Ken Zampese

Ken Zampese
Cincinnati Bengals
Position: Offensive coordinator
Personal information
Date of birth: (1967-07-19) July 19, 1967
Career information
High school: San Diego (CA) University
College: San Diego
Career history
As coach:

Kenneth Zampese (born July 19, 1967) is an American football coach who is the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League (NFL). Zampese began his coaching career at his alma mater, the University of San Diego, and has held a variety of college and professional coaching positions.

Family background

Zampese’s father, Ernie Zampese, spent 36 years as a coach in the NFL, spending time with the New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Washington Redskins, and both the Los Angeles Rams and St. Louis Rams. Ernie Zampese is known best for his role on the Chargers’ offensive coaching staff in the 1970s and '80s, when he helped engineer the famed "Air Coryell" offense. The "Air Coryell" offense—still considered one of the best passing offenses in NFL history—featured Hall of Famers Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow, along with John Jefferson and Wes Chandler. These dynamic players operated in a scheme that led the league in passing yards an NFL-record six consecutive seasons (1978-1983).

Early NFL coaching

Ken Zampese began his NFL coaching career in 1998 as an offensive assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles under head coach Ray Rhodes. In 1999, Rhodes became head coach of the Green Bay Packers, and Zampese followed. He again worked as offensive assistant, mentored by QBs Coach Mike McCarthy. Packer QBs of that era were Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks.

St. Louis Rams

Zampese joined the St. Louis Rams in 2000 as an offensive assistant under head coach Mike Martz. He was promoted the following season to WRs coach, and again the next season to WRs coach/passing game coordinator. During his stint in St. Louis, Zampese assisted Martz with the passing game of what became known as “The Greatest Show on Turf” – a nickname for the Rams’ high-powered, record-setting offense. It was here that he gained additional exposure to the “3-Digit” passing system, pioneered by his father and expanded to new heights under Martz.

QB Kurt Warner (and backups Trent Green and Marc Bulger), Hall of Fame RB Marshall Faulk, and WRs Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Az-Zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl made up what is widely considered the most prolific offense in NFL history.

Although “The Greatest Show on Turf” began its record-setting run a year prior to Zampese’s arrival in St. Louis – the 1999 Super Bowl XXXIV Rams’ Super Bowl Championship season – it lasted three seasons (’99-01), and he was with the Rams for the final two seasons of the run (2000-01).

Some of the accomplishments of the Rams’ offense over the three-season span (1999-2001):

Cincinnati Bengals

Zampese joined the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003 as quarterbacks coach at a time when the team was searching for a quarterback to lead the franchise. He aided in the scouting and evaluation of the QBs in the 2003 NFL Draft, as the team used its No. 1 overall pick to select ’02 Heisman Trophy winning QB Carson Palmer of Southern California.

Jon Kitna

Palmer’s rookie season was designated by Bengals management and coaches as strictly one for teaching and development, and he was held out of all regular season action. QB Jon Kitna took the reigns as starter, and, under Zampese’s tutelage, he posted then-career best marks in completions (324), passing yards (3591), TD passes (26), completion percentage (62.3) and passer rating (87.4). Viewed prior to the season as an aging QB on the downside of his career, Kitna earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors in ’03. His success in ’03 as a starter, along with his key contributions as a backup in ’04-05, would play a key role in his eventual signing with the Detroit Lions in 2006 to be the starting QB.

Carson Palmer

Zampese’s lead project took center stage in 2004, when Palmer took over full-time as the Bengals’ starting QB. By 2005, Cincinnati’s passing attack was widely considered one the NFL’s best, combining Palmer with WRs Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry. Powered by Palmer and the offense, the Bengals finished first in the NFL’s AFC North division with an 11-5 record, earning the team’s first playoff berth since the 1990 season. A severe knee injury suffered by Palmer in the opening series of the first playoff game helped derail the team’s chances of advancing further into the postseason, leading to a 31-17 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Palmer returned in 2006 and continued his passing prowess, posting two of the top five per-game passing yardage totals in team history (239.6 in ’06 and 250.8 in ’07). Palmer was named to the Pro Bowl in 2005 (injury prevented participation) and again in ’06, when he earned game MVP honors. After an elbow injury prematurely ended Palmer’s 2008 season, he returned in ’09 to lead the Bengals to a 10-6 record, good for another division championship and playoff berth (24-14 loss to N.Y. Jets). Under Zampese’s watch, Palmer set Bengals records in career passer rating (86.9) and completion percentage (62.9), as well as single-season marks for completions (373), passing yards (4131), TD passes (32) and passer rating (101.1).

Andy Dalton

Zampese fielded his next challenge in the spring of 2011, as a Palmer trade request created another search for a QB to lead the franchise. Zampese was again part of a scouting/evaluation effort that yielded another starting QB via the draft, as Andy Dalton of Texas Christian University was selected in the second round (35th overall).

Upon being drafted, Dalton was named the Bengals’ starting QB. The 2011 NFL lockout made the rookie learning process more difficult: It prevented communication between players and coaches and extended into late July.

Despite having no offseason contact due to the lockout, Zampese guided Dalton to one of the best statistical seasons by a rookie QB in NFL history, and it was capped by an appearance in the Pro Bowl. Add that the Bengals’ offense featured a new offensive coordinator (Jay Gruden) and new top receiving target (rookie WR A.J. Green), and Dalton’s rookie campaign was considered even more remarkable.

He became only the fifth rookie QB in NFL history to pass for 3000 yards (totaling 3398 yards), and led a surprising Bengals team to a 9-7 record and a playoff berth (31-10 loss at Houston). In 2012, Dalton topped his impressive rookie totals in nearly every category en route to another playoff berth (19-13 loss at Houston). Dalton joined Peyton Manning and Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino as the only QBs to top 20 TD passes in each of their first two NFL seasons. His total of 47 TD passes over his first two seasons is surpassed only by Marino (68) and Manning (52). Dalton was named to the 2015 NFL Pro Bowl roster after Aaron Rodgers was injured during the playoffs.

Coaching Tree

Head Coach: Marvin Lewis.
Assistants: Jay Gruden, Bob Bratkowski, Hue Jackson.
Head Coach: Mike Martz.
Assistants: Jim Hanifan, Al Saunders, John Matsko, Bobby Jackson.
Head Coach: Ray Rhodes.
Assistants: Mike McCarthy.
Head Coach: Ray Rhodes.
Assistants: Sean Payton, Bill Musgrave, Juan Castillo.
Head Coach: Randy Walker.
Assistants: Aaron Kromer, Kevin Walker, Dan Dalrymple, Sheldon White.
Head Coach: Steve Axman.
Assistants: Marty Mornhinweg, Steve Kragthorpe.
Head Coach: Larry Smith.
Assistants: Bobby April, Bob Cope.

College player


Ken Zampese Bengals Page Andy Dalton's Bengals page Jon Kitna's career statistics Carson Palmer's career statistics

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