Who gets the blame for Bengals’ poor performance?

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Dec 18, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) watches from the sideline against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) watches from the sideline against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /
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Winning six games, last year, wasn’t part of the Bengals’ master plan. But, who or what should get the blame for such a horrid season?

Training camp is just around the corner and the Bengals will begin the battle for the AFC North crown. But, before they can just walk away with the spoils, questions remain. Will they have the talent to get the job done? How do the rookies fit into the picture? It may seem too early for probing questions. But, that’s the nature of the NFL. The Bengals need to know how to address certain issues before it’s too late. Last year’s six-win season proves there was something wrong within the system. But, who’s to blame?

Fans have been getting the same promises for 14 years. Since Marvelous Marvin Lewis took the reins, the Bengals have been close but have nothing to show for the effort. Now, as a lame duck coach, Lewis has to guide the team under desperate circumstances. He’s been able to have bounceback seasons before. But, this is his ultimate test. Mike Brown hasn’t budged and there don’t seem to be any negotiations going on.

Was Lewis the reason the Bengals sank to a 6-9-1 record, after almost winning a playoff battle? Many Bengals faithful and analysts called for his head when his team imploded against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But, good old Brown had sympathy and rewarded his favorite coach with another chance. After all, coming close to victory meant the Bengals would win it all the next year. Right? Never happened.

Hue Of Another Color 

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Andy Dalton was maturing and having the best year of his career. Let’s not get into the thumb injury. That scenario has been played out. Yes, Dalton got hurt. Yeah, he was carrying the team with a lights out performance. But, he got hurt. End of story.

Hue Jackson was doing a great job with the entire offense. There were times when he showed signs of Sam Wyche insanity (shifting the O-line). But, overall, he was the catalyst behind Dalton’s coming of age and the flow of the offense.

This is where we blame Jackson for the shortcomings. Wrong. This is where Mikey Boy gets the nod for allowing Jackson to walk. I’m not saying he should have blocked Hue from taking the job by the lake. But, Lewis has been underachieving for (count ‘em) umteen years (heard my mom use that phrase). What could Jackson have wanted that made his stay unwarranted?

The Deal

The fact that Lewis doesn’t have a contract could be of his own doing. When Brown and Marv negotiated a contract for 2016, it was to include Jackson as successor in 2018. In other words, Lewis is tired. I’m no Amazing Kreskin, but Marvin may not want to continue coaching. When Brown scoffed at the offer to promote Hue, the Bengals OC left for the Browns position.

Just as suspected, the Bengals offense slipped a notch under the guidance of Ken Zampese. Yet, the blame is still not on the shoulders of Zamp. Injuries to A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill topped the list of walking wounded for the Bengals 2016 season.

Actually, the Bengals’ offensive numbers looked like a mirror image of the prior year. So, the new OC wasn’t the goat either. In fact, Dalton showed improvement under Zampese. He tossed fewer interceptions. But, he was under pressure that was allowed by a shabby O-line.

Next: Summer Battle Royale

There’s a ton of blame to go around for the nine loss catastrophe. Even the defense didn’t wake up until the second half of the season. Did losing Reggie Nelson expose that much? Nope. The Bengals pass defense moved up from No. 20 to the 11th spot.

No matter where the blame is shifted, it’s time to put it aside. The 2017 season is far too important. Lewis has to coach like never before, the rookies have to be hungry and the vets need support Marvin. This year will be a true nail-biter.  

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