The Cincinnati Bengals are making strides to get better each year. But, the effort isn’t producing playoff wins. Something needs to change.
A certain feeling probably came over Bengals fans that watched the NFC Championship Game. That feeling could have easily been anger, frustration or disgust. Diehard faithful have been waiting since 1989 for another taste of Super Bowl glee. It seems like an eternity when teams like the Patriots, Steelers, and Seahawks make it look so easy. All of the aforementioned teams are loaded with talent each season. That’s not an advantage. Each team has the same opportunity to build a superior roster. In fact, parity defines the NFL.
So, what’s keeping the Bengals from making multiple trips to the AFC Championship Game? Why are talented players allowed to walk away in free agency? Why put the time and effort into developing a star player, if he’ll be allowed to get paid by another team? These are the types of questions Bengals fans scratch their heads over. In fact, it’s easy to doubt that the Bengals are truly dedicated to winning.
Year after year, Marvin Lewis puts together a team that looks like a monster. On paper, they’re capable of causing trouble for any opponent. Recent drafts and dealings in the free agent pool have been successful. But, there are still no playoff victories to prove these Bengals projects have really reaped benefits. It’s not the double-digit W’s that show how productive a franchise has been. Getting to the playoffs and being productive is the bottom line in the NFL.
What Have You Done For Me Lately?
It’s not about Miss Jackson’s nasty groove. But, it is about the Bengals desire to win. The franchise has been under the direction of Mr.Lewis since 2003. In that time, Cincinnati has certainly become a perennial fixture in the postseason. Due to the lack of “motivation” and injuries, the Bengals failed to make the Wild Card round last season. For the first time in six years, the Stripes were watching the rest of the league battle for the top spot. Lately, the regular season approach to winning has been spectacular. What always drives the faithful crazy is the lack of success in the playoffs.
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Each year, there’s an excuse. For some reason, things have to be perfect for the Bengals to get that elusive playoff win. The rings of Saturn have to be aligned with the planetary conjunction of Scorpio. Huh? If everything has to be based on an impeccable set of circumstances, some of the teams with Lombardi’s would have never won. Maybe Lewis is waiting on that 16-0 season to spring the first postseason win.
The Talent Pool
When the Falcons crushed Green Bay to advance to Super Bowl LI, Bengals fans sighed. Mohamed Sanu balled out and showed why he should have stayed in Cincinnati. His sheer power and speed have added another dimension to the Atlanta offense. Maybe if Sanu is in Cincinnati, A.J. Green gets those 36 yards to make 1,000 yards on the season. When Green gets hurt, Sanu could have stepped up to be a force with Brandon LaFell.
The possibilities are endless. If Rex Burkhead gets the starting job over Jeremy Hill, maybe he gets over 1,000 yards and helps Ken Zampese’s offense in the red zone. For four years, Burkhead has been wasting away on the sidelines. Essentially, letting talent walk (or be wasted) is a blow to the commitment to winning. Lewis understands the role of star players. Recently, he suggested that Geno Atkins and Green provide more leadership. Players watching Rex gash through defenses would have been serious motivation to win.
"“I don’t think there’s too many teams where he wouldn’t fit,” Andrew Whitworth acknowledged, via Bengals.com. “He runs the ball well. He’s got great agility. He’s got eyes, he’s got it all. The whole team has wanted him to get his opportunity and see what he does. Especially the defensive players because they know what Rex used to do to them. He’s a talented kid.”"
Interesting. Lewis drafted him. But, why hasn’t he gotten his chance?
One More Year
The Bengals’ biggest question mark, when it comes to winning, is Lewis. But, there’s no need to talk about the numbers. What the franchise needs to do is figure out what happens after the 2017 campaign. All the ingredients for a quick turnaround are there. The Bengals have a top 10 draft pick, they missed the playoffs and Zampese has a point to prove. Defensively, things will be fine. Things have to change from the top. Otherwise, it could be the same reheated leftovers.
The commitment to winning doesn’t start in April…it starts now.