The Bengals have been a Cincinnati mainstay since 1968. With the San Diego Chargers being wooed to the balmy shores of Los Angeles, fans should be thankful.
Things went sour fast for San Diego fans. In the blink of an eye, the Chargers were packing equipment and loading moving vans for Los Angeles. For fans south of the City of Angels, 56 years of football memories went up in smoke. It may not carry much weight for those who consider it a shrewd business move. But, to those who grew up with the Bolts, it’s a kick to the gut. How would Bengals fans feel? Would it be the same, watching them play in another city?
As another team puts on their collective Ray-Ban’s and heads for the bright lights, hopefully, the Bengals will stay put. Yes, this was a year to forget. Tyler Eifert never got on track, after his Pro Bowl injury. Under the leadership of Ken Zampese, the offense struggled. A.J. Green suffered a torn hamstring and couldn’t get his sixth straight 1,000-yard season (that darn Randy Moss).
The offensive line let Andy Dalton get sacked 41 times. Kinda thinking that’s what held The Ginger in check. But, he did have a decent year. Jeremy Hill was battered and bruised (the life of an NFL running back). Try as he might, Hill didn’t make it back to the rookie numbers that amazed fans. Giovani Bernard played an entire game against the Bills and was diagnosed with a torn ACL after the battle. That’s the true definition of heart.
Bengals faithful got to see the emergence of Rex Burkhead. Truthfully, that dude runs like he has a grudge against the whole coaching staff. The Little Big Man has power, speed, and agility. His vision is amazing. If the Bengals fail to keep him, I hope he doesn’t land in the AFC North. That would hurt.
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The Hot Mess Turnaround
Yes, it’s true. Before the 2016 season, the Bengals had five straight playoff appearances. We know the results. But, at least they made the postseason. Say what you will, Marvin Lewis has turned the Cincinnati franchise into something that can be respected. When he arrived, the Bungles, er, Bengals were a hot mess. Any true and faithful fan of the Stripes can remember the Lost Decade. I like to refer to it as the Dark Age of Mike Brown. Hey, what about The Dawn of the Living Browns? Meh. It’s all the same.
Whatever you feel about Brown, Lewis, and the Bengals…it’s all in one place. The Orange and Black has been a mainstay of the Queen City since 1968. I was too young to remember Greg Cook tossing passes. When my older brother was alive, he told me the Bengals used to play their home games at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.
There was the craziness and brilliance of Sam Wyche, the hard edginess of Forrest Gregg. Both coaches steered the Bengals to the Super Bowl. Analysts agree that both games–against the San Francisco 49ers–are among the best played.
Here’s the “What you talkin’ ‘bout Willis” moment. Those memories, good and bad, have been collected in Cincinnati. To cite Professor Wyche, the Bengals play in Cincinnati…not Cleveland. But, don’t forget. Brown threatened to move the team in the mid-90s. The threat was more serious than most fans understand. Rumors were circulating that the Bengals could move to Baltimore, while a $200 million stadium was being built. Twenty years later…they’re still in the Nati.
The Nati Still Has Football
There hasn’t been a playoff victory in 24 years. But, the talk of going back to the Super Bowl has entered Cincinnati fan’s conversations again.
For all the insanity around Lewis, the boneheaded play calls by Zampese and the missed kicks by Ted, er, Mike Nugent…it’s all in Cincinnati.
"“I want to be the same guy I’ve always been. That’s the only way I know. So I’m kind of in the middle of that, leaving behind something that you love and are thankful for, and you want to make sure that everybody knows that, and at the same time I don’t want people to think, ‘Well, he sure seems fired up to go up there.’ … I hope as the dust settles a little bit that people can understand that.”"
True fans are resilient. They live and die with the teams they’ve grown to love. Thank goodness the Bengals are still in Cincinnati.