December 2, 2021

From humble beginnings to new quarterbacks coach for Bengals

Cortland’s Dan Pitcher

Dan Pitcher on field

Photo provided by P.J. Combs/Cincinnati Bengals Director of Media Relations

Dan Pitcher began his football dreams in Cortland Small Fry Football at Gary Wood Field and now looks forward to first season as Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks coach.

The dream began at Dexter Park on Gary Wood Field as a Cortland Small Fry Football player for youngster Dan Pitcher.

On January 30th, he got his biggest promotion to date in his NFL career when the former three-sport star at Cortland High School was named the new Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks coach. Pitcher replaces Alex Van Pelt, who has left the team.

Pitcher, 33, has been a Bengals assistant coach on offense since 2016. He was an offensive assistant with a focus on wide receivers from 2016-17, then an offensive assistant with a focus on quarterbacks in 2018. He moved into the role of assistant quarterbacks coach last year.

“I am excited to promote Dan to quarterbacks coach,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “Dan is a rising star who has demonstrated that he has a bright future as he continues to take on more responsibility. Dan’s background as a successfulcollege quarterback, along with his experience coaching wide receivers and helping Alex in the quarterback room will allow him to bring great value to that position.”

“I am very excited,” Pitcher said. “It’s a position I had a goal for. I wanted this opportunity and I am glad Zac, Brian and the team owners liked me to fill this role.”

Brian is Brian Callahan, the Bengals’ offensive coordinator.

“I knew early on that when I finished playing that I wanted to coach,” Pitcher said. “When you’re seven or eight you dream about playing, but I realized that I like teaching as well. It’s a passion for knowledge of the game. I wanted to be at the highest level possible. Like trying to become a player in the NFL, few people have an opportunity to become a coach either. I was able to learn from the player side personally and was willing to do whatever it took to get to this level. I’m excited to get this opportunity. I certainly will do my best to do a good job and continue to move forward. The hard work is really just starting.”

After graduating from Cortland High in 2005 where he played football, basketball and baseball, Pitcher found his way to SUNY Cortland and was the starting quarterback from 2009-2011. In his final year, Pitcher was a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy, presented annually to the most outstanding Division III football player. It’s the Division III equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

After his playing career ended, Pitcher got his first coaching job with his college football coach Dan McNeill, helping with the wide receivers in 2012 before moving on to becoming a scouting assistant with the Indianapolis coach later in 2012 and 2013.

“I knew it was a quick transition from player to coach at Cortland State,” Pitcher said. “I knew it was a start for me and thanks to Coach McNeill for giving me the opportunity.”

“I’m not really surprised what Dan has done,” McNeill said. “I’m really happy for him because it’s a hard business to stay in. It can be short term, but Dan is committed to do his best. It does seem like just yesterday that he was here on campus.”

Among his highlights on the Cincinnati coaching staff:

• In 2019, Andy Dalton threw for 3,494 yards and 16 touchdowns with 14 interceptions in an inconsistent season. Rookie Ryan Finley started three games in the middle of the season throwing for 474 yards and two touchdowns along with two interceptions as the Bengals stumbled through a 2-14 season.

• In 2018, Pitcher and Van Pelt helped guide the Bengals’ QBs through a transition into a new offensive system. Dalton passed for 21 TDs and an 89.6 passer rating through 11 games, before a thumb injury ended his season. Pitcher also helped guide QB Jeff Driskel, who saw his first NFL action in 2018 and was thrust into the starting role for the season’s final five contests after Dalton’s injury.

Driskel tossed six TDs and just two interceptions, and posted an 82.2 rating, despite playing much or all of his time without wide receivers A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd plus missing tight ends Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft.

• In 2017, while working with the Bengals’ receivers, Pitcher helped guide Green to 1,078 receiving yards and a Pro Bowl nod. He also aided in the development of Cincinnati’s young receiving corps, with Boyd, Alex Erickson, Josh Malone and John Ross III.

Prior to joining the Bengals, Pitcher spent four seasons in player personnel with the Indianapolis Colts. He served in 2014-15 as a pro scout, promoted to that position after working as a scouting assistant from 2012-13.

With the Colts, Pitcher was part of a football operation that compiled a 41-23 regular-season record (.641), with three playoff berths, including two AFC South championships, and one trip to the AFC Championship Game. Pitcher was responsible for advance scouting reports on opponents, evaluation of free agents, monitoring rosters and evaluating players on other teams.

Pitcher sees working with the wide receivers and now the quarterbacks is a benefit to his goals of the Bengals being solid on offense.

“These two groups work well together,” Pitcher said. “That’s something you need to be a good leader. It’s good having a knowledge of all positions. Having both the quarterbacks and receivers knowing the routes and patterns is crucial.”

Pitcher now lives in Cincinnati with his wife, Marissa. He graduated from Cortland State with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2010, and he earned a master’s degree in sport management in 2011.

In just a few weeks, the NFL will hold its annual draft of college players. Cincinnati has the first pick in the draft and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is the likely top pick. Burrow led the Tigers to the 2020 NCAA National Championship and he won the Heisman Trophy. He also played high school football in Athens, Ohio. It remains to been seen what Cincinnati will do with their pick. Dalton is still on the roster as is Finley and Jake Dolegala, who was a rookie in 2019 like Finley.

“I am comfortable with whoever we have at quarterback,” Pitcher said. “It’s not going to bother me. I’ll set my standards for what I expect for each guy, then I’ll evaluate and adjust.”

Dan Pitcher and the entire Cincinnati Bengals organization is in that wait and see mode because of the COVID-19 virus. The NFL Draft is going to take place, but any kind of team off-season workouts are currently on hold and the thoughts starts on training camps and games is still well off. For now, Pitcher will set his standards, evaluate and adjust to his new position.