Leadership may be Biggest key to Bengals Success During Remainder of Season


Oct 2, 2011; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) is congratulated by head coach Marvin Lewis after scoring the tying and scoring his first rushing touchdown in the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals defeated the Bills 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Marvin Lewis has issued a direct challenge. It’s time for Andy Dalton and Rey Maualuga to assume positions of leadership on this Bengal team.

"We’re looking for our quarterback and our middle linebacker to take hold of our football team. I think both guys are such good people, that you need to be a little bit of a (jerk)."

I don’t know, maybe that’s true. I’m certainly not in the locker room, I don’t know the psyches of individual players, and I don’t know the dynamics of the relationships between the quarterback and the middle linebacker and the rest of the team. I’ll tell you what I do know. Dalton’s ability to stop throwing the ball to the other team will have a heck of a lot more to do with turning the season around than “being vocal,” as Lewis wants. And which is more important to the defense–Maualuga “getting in the face of teammates,” or his overpursuit, blown tackles and poor reads?

This isn’t meant to single out those two. There has been plenty of blame to go around during the losing streak. The point is that the idea of this “leadership” isn’t going to do a darn thing. Are we really supposed to believe that Dalton yelling at someone will keep them from fumbling, dropping a pass, or missing a block? By that way of thinking, Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis was just laughing off his problems holding onto the ball, but oh jeez, if only Andy had yelled at me, I would not have fumbled that time. Please.

These guys have professional pride, not to mention MILLIONS of dollars on the line in a league without guaranteed contracts. Nebulous traits like “leadership” and “chemistry” are almost always attributed after the fact to make neat and clean narratives for sportswriters. I realize that not everything in football is quantifiable. And I also realize I never played in the NFL, so any former player would say you don’t understand, you don’t know what it’s like to be in that locker room, blah, blah, blah.

But the keys to winning this Sunday have nothing to do with Dalton yapping at someone for a missed block, and everything to do with converting on third down, eliminating turnovers, and finding a way to slow down Peyton Manning. If the Bengals really need Dalton and Maualuga to give them a kick in the butt to realize that, then the organization has bigger problems.

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