Cincinnati Bengals: The NFL’s Talent Factory


Jul 26, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Matt Scott (8) and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) watch drills during training camp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals have given back so much to the rest of the NFL over the years.  Prior to the team’s 2011 reclamation, opposing team’s enjoyed assumptive wins over the Bengals for so long that it seemed they were simply giving them away.  They were taken for granted and largely overlooked when the opposition saw them on the schedule.  But nobody is ignoring the Bengals now and the opposition is paying closer attention to the Bengals both when seeing them on the schedule and when looking for potential talent to acquire.

Since 2011, the Bengals have been one of the NFL’s best teams both at acquiring and cultivating talent.  They’ve become a model of how to draft and seem to have a relentless penchant for finding talent amongst overlooked players.  Because of these abilities, Bengals’ training camp has become one of the most competitive in the league.  The contests for roster spots seem to exist at nearly every position as earning a spot on the final roster seems about as likely as the Bengals making the playoffs in the 90s.  The teams’ proclivity for talent has their roster bursting at the seams while the leftovers are spilling all over the NFL.  Yet again, the Bengals are giving back to the NFL.

The Bengals have been providing the opposition with players since 2011–several of these players between 2011 and 2012 were let go due to behavioral issues, the lone poor decision being Evan Mathis–but this “talent factory” of sorts really began to kick off in 2013 and has continued this year.  Here is a list of players that the Bengals have lost to the opposition since 2013.

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This is a pretty substantial list where eight out of 12 players have landed on other teams’ 53-man rosters.  In the coming year’s this list won’t slow down either as the Bengals have continued acquiring and developing talent at a rate that can’t be supported; this list would’ve likely been longer had the NFL not expanded its practice squad allowance and eligibility, which allowed the Bengals to keep veterans Trevor Robinson and Devon Still.  This list could also get more extensive this year as the Bengals practice squad is loaded with talent waiting to be plucked and because the Bengals were forced to release some quality players such as BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ryan Whalen, and R.J. Stanford; each of these players has been on a team’s 53-man roster for at least three seasons.  In the coming years, the Bengals will only have so much cap space to work with.  Because of this, they won’t be able to keep all the talent they accrue, so fans should expect to see this list continue at such a rate–or a higher one; it’s a good thing the Bengals have such a discerning eye for talent.

But the charity doesn’t stop there for the Bengals.  This past off-season saw the team lose both its former coordinators to head coaching positions: Mike Zimmer to Minnesota and Jay Gruden to the Redskins.

Aug 28, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson against the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

This list could also continue to grow in the coming years.  The Bengals currently possess Hue Jackson as its offensive coordinator and Paul Guenther, who comes from the Zimmer tree of defensive coaching, as its defensive coordinator.  Jackson was a victim of a serious organizational overhaul when he was unjustly fired by the dysfunctional Raiders organization after being its head coach in 2011; something I bet they regret now.  If Jackson performs well this year, it would be unsurprising to see him leave the organization for another head coaching job in 2015.  Guenther may not be as likely a candidate for a job in the coming year, but in the years following, he just may be.  He inherits an incredibly talented defense and possesses a real ability for developing linebacking talent evidenced by the performance of Vontaze Burfict to date and maybe Emmanuel Lamur soon enough.  If this defense continues to thrive under his tutelage, it’s only a matter of time before other organizations take notice.  And to make matters worse, one prominent Bengal figure from the past feels there’s even a positional coach who’s quickly on the rise.  Here is an excerpt from a piece by editor Geoff Hobson, which includes a sort of question and answer from Bengals former linebacker Takeo Spikes regarding Bengals’ secondary coach Vance Joseph.

"Spikes says Joseph, the Bengals cornerbacks coach, is going to be a coordinator in the nexthree [sic] years. They hooked up when Spikes was in san Franciso for three years.“Book it. Attention to detail. The guy’s a teacher,” Spikes said. “His philosophy is I’m going to tell you why.’ As players, even as kids, you can tell your kids what do to but they walk away always thinking: Why? Why can’t I do that?’"

If Spikes is in fact right and Guenther does in fact draw attention elsewhere, I can only hope that Joseph is still with the Bengals upon Guenther’s departure.

Each of these coaches will also be appealing targets because they “grew up” within the Bengals system. The Bengals have become a quality organization that possesses this aforementioned “eye” for talent.  These coaches will also garner interest because they either have or have learned to have such an “eye,” which would be appealing to any prospective team.  The Bengals coaching ranks has already gone through a significant change over this off-season.  Hopefully the team will be ready in the coming years because both they and fans may have to get used to a “revolving door” amongst the coaching ranks.

As concerning as this article may initially be, it’s really intended to be a compliment to an organization that has been through so much over the past three to seven years.  CBS’s Gregg Doyel wrote a really great piece on this topic.  It’s an article that sums up what the Bengals have been through in the past.  After seeing nine players arrested in about a year span, around 2007, Bengals players were upset and rightfully uncomfortable with the Bengals’ direction.  Although intended to help troubled players, Mike Brown’s “redeemer” role really set this organization on a troubled path.  Marvin Lewis was able to earn the trust of the always skeptical Brown and has since been able to slowly turn this organization around.  By getting rid of many of these troubled players, and by investing in quality people–players–has been the key.  He’s even been able to help Brown with his “redeemer” efforts.  Players such as Adam Jones, Vontaze Burfict, and current Bengals rookie Jeremy Hill have all had run-ins with the law, but seem to be on a better path now.  It’s because of strong leadership and the Bengals’ investment in quality individuals, be it players or coaches, that this is possible.

The Bengals have done a great job taking the necessary steps to restructure their organization and build themselves in a quality team.  They’ve acquired the right kind of talent–to much to hold onto–and have developed some really great coaches in the process.  There seems to be no end to the Bengals’ NFL charity.