Toothless Tiger: Perspective on the state of the Bengals
As we prepare for the second full Sunday of NFL action, everyone is definitely hoping there are lots of highlights to help erase Thursday night’s eyesore of a game from our collective memory. The position the Bengals now find themselves in is also worth a closer look.
It is no secret that their start has been comically bad. It also must be incredibly frustrating for everyone involved not just because they have lost consecutive home games to start the year, but also because they have scored a grand total of nine points.
One of the better kept secrets of the young NFL season is how well the Bengals defense has played. They have only allowed 33 total points in two games. Also, a decent chunk of those points have been given up due to short fields after turnovers by the offense. Translation: any sort of production from the offense would have meant a 2-0 start as opposed to 0-2. More than anything, that has to be what is keeping the players, coaches and fans up at night.
The familiar and often accurate narrative in regards to the Bengals lack of success is that the ownership of Mike Brown is the problem. Brown is not going to fire himself. Thus, the head coach and quarterback are once again taking most of the heat.
As a native of Cincinnati, the opinion that Marvin Lewis has done a great job during his 15-year tenure as Bengals head coach is not a popular one right now, but it is the truth.
Atrocious does not even begin to accurately describe this franchise prior to his 2003 arrival. From 1991-2002, the Bengals had a .500 record just once and eight seasons of double-digit losses. Fan morale was lower than low and many kids from my generation became fans of other teams, myself included.
With Lewis at the helm, the Bengals have notched four division titles, seven playoff berths and just four losing seasons. The revitalization of football in Cincinnati during the early years of the Lewis era was incredible to see. Games were suddenly fun to go to because of the Bengals rather than the opponent, and gear was being sold on street corners during the week.
Starting with Cincinnati’s return to the playoffs after the 2005 season, the city was caught up in “Bengalmania.” It had not started to slow down until very recently. Lewis’ 0-7 playoff record is well documented. Has he been employed in one spot too long for a guy who has never won a playoff game? Probably. Is it time to move on? Probably.
Even so, if this season turns out to be his last in Cincy, it is shaping up to be a cruel ending for the man who played a key role in bringing this franchise back from the dead. The fact is the ending for most NFL coaches is cruel. The goal of any NFL head coach should be to leave the franchise in better shape than when he was hired. Lewis has done that in Cincinnati.
The same winless playoff record that follows Lewis around also follows Andy Dalton around, even though he has only been around for just over half of the losses.
After guiding his team to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons, Dalton appeared to reach the next level in 2015. He was a legitimate MVP candidate until a season ending thumb injury. Since then, his decline has been swift and dramatic. He is 6-11-1 as a starter and responsible for just one more touchdown pass than turnover.
Backup AJ McCarron has been adequate in spot duty throughout his career. Every time Dalton struggles, calls for the former Alabama standout and soon to be free agent only get louder. While this is understandable, Dalton’s career is still filled with much more good than bad. Fixing him is top priority for this franchise right now.
Dalton’s struggles correlate with the promotion of Ken Zampese to offensive coordinator in 2016. Zampese was let go Friday. While it is virtually impossible that Zampese was the entire problem, it is a logical place to start.
However, the reality is the Bengals already have two losses on the board. The upcoming schedule includes Green Bay, two games with the Steelers, another date with Baltimore and Tennessee. This season is probably going to get a whole lot worse. Thus, there is almost no conceivable way this organization does not look a whole lot different come 2018.
Featured image from cincyjungle.com
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