The Cincinnati Bengals have long been a laughing stock of the NFL. Many fans are fed up with the way the organization operates, starting with owner Mike Brown. This article pinpoints some potential front office moves—listed as days—that could further a separation between the Bengals and their fanbase.
Day 1, Love at First Sight
If you're an avid Bengals fan, news of Marvin Lewis' impending release undoubtedly stirred up a myriad of emotions within you. As I immersed myself in headline upon headline, I was happy that Marvin Lewis was open-minded towards taking the head coaching position at the University of Pittsburgh. Oh, the irony of Cincinnati fans mocking Pittsburgh fans as Marvin Lewis wasted their one and only challenge.
All joking aside, Marvin (and really any head coach) deserves better than the proverbial hand he's dealt by owner and self-appointed general manager Mike Brown. In poker terms, I guess you could say Mike Brown only allows his coaches to sit at the table if they are willing to play with a perpetual "Doyle Brunson" hand.
Needless to say, the odds of winning with such a poor hand are extremely low. Marvin did, in some regards, defy the odds and guide the Bengals to the playoffs twice, something the previous three head coaches failed to do. For that feat, Bengals' fans fell in love with Marvin. He could do no wrong. He was their savior.
For a moment, it seemed as though Marvin Lewis was taking a hard stance with owner Mike Brown. ESPN's Adam Schefter broke two intriguing stories about the state of Bengal affairs, the second of which gave me hope. Was Marvin really going to stand up for himself? Was he going to oppose Mike Brown? Was he going to demand the hiring of a scouting department, or the building of an indoor practice facility? As much as I thought the Bengals need a coaching change, I believe the organization's biggest need is a mindset shift.
Look no further than conference opponents New England and Indianapolis, or divisional opponents Pittsburgh and Baltimore, for prime examples of organizations which have instilled winning into their culture. The fruits of these organizations' respective labors? A bountiful harvest. Oh, and playoff victories and Superbowl trophies.
Then the Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy dropped the bomb. Marvin Lewis received a contract extension. Scouting did not hold up negotiations, nor did an indoor practice facility. The front office's insistence upon changing the Bengals' identity as a football team irked Marvin. I'm willing to give Marvin Lewis the benefit of the doubt in that I wanted to see the smash mouth Bengals of 2010 return. Of course, with a 4-12 football team, there are more concerns than meets the eye.
Personnel mismanagement raises huge concerns that make me question the Bengals' ability to evaluate talent. Carlos Dunlap recorded 9.5 sacks in eight games. Jerome Simpson exploded for back to back 100 yard receiving efforts against top 10 defensive units.
What about Marvin Lewis' record as a head coach? That was a rhetorical question. It's sub .500, and with the Day 3 news, I don't see that changing anytime soon. Bringing back Marvin will undoubtedly signal the end to some Bengals' fans allegiances.
Day 2, Learning to Compromise
Marvin's return indicates that there will be no immediate changes to scouting, nor will the Brown family be spending money for an indoor practice facility. Many Bengals fans will not be pleased to hear that no changes are imminent.
Brian Kelly demanded new facilities at the University of Cincinnati before he bolted to coach the Fighting Irish. Cincinnati's college football team has another thing in common with its pro team. UC's football program is a stepping stone for coaches like Mike Dantonio (Michigan State) and Brian Kelly (Notre Dame).
If the Bengals choose to remain stagnant, they will suffer the same fate as UC, which has relegated its head coaching position to a stepping stone for young coaches. Mike Brown has never learned how to compromise, and, as a result, he is compromising the palatability of the Bengals' head coaching position.
Day 3, I promise, I'll change!
Bengal brass recently announced the return of Carson Palmer. Oh boy. Before I write another sentence, I must express my sentiment that Carson Palmer should have been the best Bengal quarterback in the Franchise's history. I know that might sound blasphemous to fans who grew up watching "the Blonde Bomber," Boomer Esiason, or perhaps the most underrated QB of all time in Kenny Anderson, but Carson was well on his way to being one of the elite in the NFL before his knee injury in the playoffs in '05.
I do not blame Carson Palmer's lack of recent success on him as much as his original knee injury. I discussed the injury at length awhile back with a renowned Sports Medicine Orthopedist. He asked to remain anonymous, but here is what he said concerning Carson Palmer's knee injury:
"Palmer's injury occurred when he was throwing with his left foot planted. Kimo (Von Oelhoffen) rolled on the outside of his left knee resulting in the force being transmitted to the inside (medial) ligaments, snapping them in two. The strongest ligament is the MCL. Once that (ligament) is ruptured, a cascade of further ligaments tear. In (Carson's) case, he dislocated his patella (kneecap) tearing its supports from the femur (thigh bone). The forces continue until the ACL tears with its support from the outside of the knee. Thrown in the mix are cartilage (meniscus) tears as well as injuries to the cartilage on the end of the bone. I happen to know he tore his PCL as well, but in the grand scheme of things, that is irrelevant.
"Without getting into much more detail about the actual surgical procedure, the surgery performed on Carson left him medially unstable. The school of thought is to blame for Carson's unstable knee and not the surgeon. They try to prevent the medial instability with a very restrictive brace. The problem is there is no brace to compensate for medial instability. The result is that when (Palmer) comes forward on the planted left foot during his throwing motion, he has to concentrate on a position of stability, and that can't be done at the speed of the game. This compensation also alters his throwing motion overloading his UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) in his elbow, the Tommy John one. His shoulder will also become sore with the altered motion."
So, as I was saying, I thought Palmer was well on his way to being one of the greats at the position. At this juncture, it's unfortunately time to find an incumbent at the quarterback position. At the salary Carson is earning, it is preposterous to keep a largely ineffective quarterback on the roster. If the Bengals were to cut Carson before his roster bonus kicks in, they would not owe him any money. Bringing Carson back is a quick way to alienate fans, especially those who may not know of the medical woes forced on Carson. If they did know about his injury, they might be even more irate.
Day 4, That's a dealbreaker
The next saga in Bengal offseason drama is one featuring offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. In an interview with Joe Reedy, Marvin Lewis was mum on the prospect of Bratkowski leaving the organization. Hey, Mr. Brown, want to lose a Bengals fan? Rehire Bob Bratkowski. Cedric Benson already said he's out if Brat returns. Count in pretty much every fan who wore a "fire Bratkowski" t-shirt to a Bengals game last year. Even if they didn't get kicked out of the stadium. Check out the poll at the bottom of that link to see what some fans think about Bratkowski.
Day 5, Are you cheating on me?
Chad Ochocinco. You either love him, or hate him. I tend to find myself leaning towards the "just play football" side of the spectrum. I've always respected and admired Chad for what he brings to the table. Chad's numbers speak for themselves. If you had asked me in 2003, or 2004, I would've assured you that Chad Johnson was a Hall of Fame NFL Player. Then came "the Ocho."
Chad, my man, I don't want to see you dance. I don't care about your Facebook posts or tweets. I've never watched a single minute of your reality TV shows, including dancing with the stars. I want to see touchdowns. Personally, I want to see Chad Ochocinco gone. I want Chad Johnson back. Chad Johnson was dedicated to his craft as a receiver. Chad Johnson was the receiver guaranteeing victory over the 9-0 Chiefs during the 2003 season. Chad Johnson is the receiver who led the AFC in receiving yards four years in a row. That Chad no longer suits up on Sundays.
Chad OchoCinco is a reality TV nightmare. The door swings both ways on this one, some fans will give the Bengals a pass if he stays. For all of his antics, he's a likable guy, and he brings some light-heartedness and youthful exuberance to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's no-fun league.
Bottom line: Football is no longer Chad's only priority, and thus he should no longer be a priority of the Bengals. He doesn't respect Marvin Lewis, and I can't say I blame him, but at the end of the day, can he honestly say football was his only priority last offseason?
Day 6, Please, don't go!
Hypothetically speaking, the Bengals could be searching for two new coordinators. Ken Zampese, the Bengals quarterback coach, does not excite me at all as a potential offensive coordinator replacement. If Mike Zimmer gets a head coaching offer somewhere (Carolina?). Fans are liable to go through the roof if Zimmer leaves the Bengals to pursue a head coaching position.
Here's something to ponder: The Vikings just signed Leslie Frazier—the first defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis worked with in Cincinnati—as their head coach. If an NFL franchise names Zimmer head coach, and the Raiders promote offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to head coach, three former Marvin Lewis coaching staff members would all have head coaching positions.
Day 7, I'll do anything to get you back!
My greatest fear as a Bengals fan is that the front office will not sign Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall to long term contracts. Joseph will more than likely receive the franchise tag paying him the average of the five highest paid cornerbacks' salaries. Hall will be a free agent after the 2011 season. Considering the recent Bengals front office drama, failing to at least begin negotiations with one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL could certainly alienate Bengals fans.
Day 8, Things just aren't the same between us
Paul Alexander has been the Bengals offensive line coach for 17 seasons now. He's done a fantastic job grooming young, talented guys like Levi Jones and Eric Steinbach. I personally don't want to see him go, but when it rains, it pours. There's always a fall guy. If it's not Marvin, and it's not Bratkowski, it could be Alexander or special teams coach Darrin Simmons.
Simmons has coached special teams for the Bengals for eight seasons. He's done a whole lot with not much to work with. Guys like Shayne Graham and Mike Nugent came here after being discarded and exceeded expectations. Like Alexander, sometimes there are fall guys. The special teams tackling has always been questionable to me, and the Bengals have never really given Simmons a toy like a Devin Hester or DeSean Jackson (or Dez Bryant!) to work with on special teams. Simmons could be out; after all, if Marvin isn't taking the fall, someone has to be held accountable.
Day 9, You're never there when I need you
Free Agency has always been a Bengals' Achilles heel. Marvin has always vowed to build through the draft, but when the Bengals have swung big in free agency, they seem to whiff. Antwan Odom has played well, when he's been on the field. More than likely the Bengals will give Odom his walking papers this offseason with the emergence of Carlos Dunlap, and to see what they have in Michael Johnson. Then there are Laveranues Coles and Antonio Bryant free-agency fiascos.
Am I the only one pondering why no other team attempted to sign Antonio Bryant? The $7.85 million that the Bengals paid Bryant for practicing once could have certainly gone towards building the foundation of a scouting department.
Day 10, It's not you, it's me
Ah the NFL draft. The day Bengals fans anticipate, fear and loathe. This day has inflicted deep wounds on Bengals fans. I spent some time pondering the corporate world ramifications of the most recent Bengals draft blunder, the Andre Smith signing.
If a business owner invited a talented young man in for a multiple-step interview process, and the prospective employee not only showed up unprepared, but then left in the middle of the interview process without telling anyone, that business owner would certainly not hire the kid, right? I guess if his name is Mike Brown, yes.
If the Bengals have a suspect draft class, fans may finally give up on their hometown team. Then again, if the Bengals draft poorly, can you really blame fans for cutting ties with them? After all, if one side isn't pulling its respective weight, who can blame the other half for walking away.