Brad Kragthorpe

Bengals Block Chargers Interview Request, Add Pass-Game Coordinator

Brian Callahan‘s departure to become the Titans’ head coach marked the first major shakeup among Zac Taylor‘s top offensive assistants during his five-year tenure. The Bengals will bring in an outside hire to help compensate for Callahan’s Nashville exit.

Cincinnati is hiring former Minnesota assistant Justin Rascati as its pass-game coordinator, the team announced Thursday. Rascati previously worked as the Vikings’ assistant offensive line coach. He will join new OC Dan Pitcher among Taylor’s top assistants.

While this is a common position across the NFL, the Bengals did not utilize it previously. Rascati will also work with new Bengals quarterbacks coach Brad Kragthorpe, whom the team promoted from assistant QBs coach to fill the void Pitcher left when he moved up the ladder. Like Pitcher, Kragthorpe has been with the Bengals throughout Taylor’s tenure. These two figure to be natural candidates to become Cincy’s OC in the event Pitcher — a popular OC candidate over the past two years — becomes part of the 2025 HC carousel.

The Bengals also made an effort to retain assistant Jordan Kovacs on defense. The Chargers wanted to interview Kovacs, but’s Mike Garafolo notes the Bengals blocked that request. Kovacs is a Michigan alum who served as an assistant under Jim Harbaugh from 2017-18. Kovacs has been with the Bengals since Taylor’s 2019 arrival, moving to assistant linebackers coach in 2022. The Bengals are promoting him, assigning him as their secondary coach/safeties for 2024.

Kovacs’ promotion also came about because previous Bengals secondary coach, Robert Livingston, left to take a job on Deion Sanders’ Colorado staff. Livingston met with Sanders about the position Wednesday,’s Ian Rapoport tweets. The Buffaloes are finalizing a defensive coordinator agreement with Livingston, according to the Associated Press.

Although Livingston was not on the coordinator level in the NFL, his departure will be an adjustment for the Bengals. He spent the past 12 seasons with the team, arriving as a scout during Marvin Lewis‘ tenure. Taylor retained Livingston upon arriving, keeping him in place as the team’s secondary coach — a position he took over in 2018. With Lou Anarumo failing to land a head coaching job in recent years, Livingston did not have a path to move up in Cincinnati. He will take an opportunity to reach the coordinator tier with Colorado, which received considerable attention last year thanks to Sanders’ arrival as HC.

Bengals Hire Ex-Bucs DC Mark Duffner

The Bengals have hired former Buccaneers interim defensive coordinator Mark Duffner as a senior defensive assistant, tweets Albert Breer of 

Duffner, 65, has worked in Cincinnati before, serving as the club’s linebackers coach from 1997-2000 before taking over as defensive coordinator from 2001-02. After coaching LBs in Green Bay, Jacksonville, and Miami in the following years, Duffner joined Tampa Bay as linebackers coach in 2016. He was promoted to interim DC in October after the Bucs fired incumbent Mike Smith. For what it’s worth, Tampa Bay’s defense finished dead last in Football Outsiders’ DVOA but 29th in weighted DVOA, meaning the unit improved as the season progressed.

Duffner will fill two voids on the Bengals’ defensive staff. The first is familiarity, as Duffner worked with both new head coach Zac Taylor and new defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo on the 2014-15 Dolphins staff. Second, Duffner is now the most experienced coach on Cincinnati’s staff, on either side of the ball. Aside from quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, Duffner is the only coach on the team that has been a full-time (non-interim) coordinator.

In addition to hiring Duffner, the Bengals also finalized their roster by hiring four other coaches: Nick Eason (defensive line), Tem Lukabu (linebackers), Brad Kragthorpe (offensive assistant), Jordan Kovacs (defensive quality control).