The Cincinnati Bengals have gone fishin’. “Out to lunch” signs hang on coaches’ doors, gathering dust. Up in the front office, all the phones’ voicemail boxes are full.

And somewhere, down in Georgia, Odell Thurman realizes just how lucky he was.

Players, coaching and management all mailed it in today in Houston. On the field, the team collapsed in all three phases of the game. On the sidelines, the coaches either couldn’t halt the bleeding…or just didn’t care. And management has declined to make any moves — acquiring players or firing coaches — that might offer some faint hope for change.

And really, who can blame them? For the players, what is the worst thing that happens? They get cut? Oh, yeah, now there’s a threat. Please, massa Brown, don’t throw me in that briar patch! Ditto for the coaching staff, who will keep collecting if they’re canned, and won’t be embarrassed weekly in the process. Which, of course, is why the front office does nothing. Why throw good money after bad?

Well, yes, there’s us, the fans. We would certainly appreciate the bone of a W here or there. But in the end, there’s not much we can do to demand it. That’s just the reality of revenue sharing in today’s NFL. So all there is to do is sit back and laugh. Enjoy the Bengals for what they are: a seasonal, live-action comedy show. It’s genius, really, when you stop and think about it. It’s as if the NBA incorporated the Washington Generals as a “real” NBA team, and every team got a “bye” series against them every season. In the NFL, the extra bye comes during “Bungles Week.”

The only problem is that this gives teams that play the Bengals an unfair advantage over those that don’t. Fortunately, there’s an equally squalid franchise in Detroit. It would require some divisional rule-waving, but I’m sure the NFL could come up with a suitable way to set things up so that every NFC team plays the Lions each year, and every AFC team the Bengals. After all, this is the NFL, and we all know that in the NFL, parody is key.