Cincinnati Bengals: Barring a Reaching Tackle…

ecoleman
Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) on the sidelines during the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) on the sidelines during the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /
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Ok, it’s inside 100 days until regular season football games begin. This is about the time that I allow myself to become cautiously optimistic about the Bengals’ upcoming season.

If you’re a Bengals fan, you know my situation. Granted, we really haven’t been around as long as the Browns, but at least we’ve been to a Super Bowl.

Each year I look forward to the new schedule and closely follow any and all roster moves and injury updates. I tune into the NFL Network to watch news on mini camps and scout the production of all the teams — especially our rivals. I follow many blogs and sports news sites online, hoping for a scoop on the roster.

I am lucky to live within a few hours of my favorite teams and generally get to watch (or listen) to the majority of games throughout the year.

Football is unique in that I have a beloved team (and a few hated teams), but I enjoy watching all teams play. This is only true for me during the playoffs for other sports or March Madness. I have my teams, and I’m loyal.

That being said, as a Bengals fan I constantly hear the jibes from those that seem all too eager to bring up the fact that their so-called favorite teams hold (insert number) Super Bowl rings. I am inundated with the taunts of playoff blow-ups and unrealistic expectations. All I can do is hope that these fans don’t get shoved off their teams’ bandwagons to make room for more fair-weather fans.

I’m one of those “What If…” fans. I am loyal to a fault (at times), and I always try to analyze and see when and where the wheels came off the bus for my teams. It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback when you’re not in the heat of competition, having to make split-second decisions that either positively or negatively affect the outcome of a game.

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Again, I truly believe that last year was Our Year. All the pieces were in place. We were at the top of our game, and then… a reaching tackle — THE reaching tackle. Who extends an arm in a last second effort to trip a player? Better yet, what quarterback does this when his hands are his main equipment, his weapons? What is this — basketball and a reach-in foul?

Now, I can gripe and look back and say, “I wouldn’t have done that,” but then again I wasn’t there on the field in that situation, making that decision. To be honest, now that I’ve had time to reflect, I probably would’ve done the same thing.

But that’s the point in time. That’s the turning point when I see the Championship Season slowly slip away. The thumb.

I am always ranting about the delicate nature of modern athletes. I joke about a hangnail keeping baseball players on the disabled list for weeks. I long for the days when players taped multiple broken fingers together and went out and competed as if the contest was life and death. We can argue the current sports climate and inflated contracts, but those are topics for another article (and they will be). There is, however, no way that one can effectively throw a football with an injured thumb — I get that.

Now, I don’t want to downplay the performance of A.J. McCarron last season. He stepped in and performed brilliantly, but the team chemistry had changed. I want to call out those that are calling for a McCarron trade — what are you thinking?! What if this happens again — not the thumb tackle, but another injury. We need a backup that can perform and has proven that he can perform. A.J. has.

But, I digress…

We should be defending NFL Champs — not just AFC North Champs. I don’t believe we’re “cursed” (it’s not like we’re the Cubs or ANY Cleveland team), but we’ve come so close, so many times.

I hold out hope for this season, just like every other. Every year is going to be our year, and this one is no different.

Next: Focus Then Focus Some More

The Super Bowl is ours…barring a reaching tackle.

WhoDey?!

Let’s Roar!

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