Stop me if you’ve heard this before:
A divisional champion, led by their star wideout and defensive lineman,are defeated in a wildcard game by an in division rival lead by an elite, hall of fame quarterback and their star receiver.
Houston resembles a theme that Bengals fans know all too well: that teams who may be overall more talented may fall in the postseason to a team who is built completely around their star quarterback. It isn’t that Deshaun Watson isn’t good – in fact he is very good. But he lacks the same game-controlling presence that Andrew Luck possesses. Luck is someone who you simply cannot prepare for, as there are few (practically zero) weaknesses in his game. Combine that with a wide receiver who posses phenomenal route running, hands, and speed, and running backs good enough to keep defenders near or around the box, and you have a recipe for success that few teams will have an answer for.
The blame isn’t all on Watson, obviously, who is a good player. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien has not been all too impressive in Houston, amassing just a single playoff win in 5 years. Obviously, there are parallels to be drawn to the Bengals here as well. But it doesn’t take a great coach to win games with an elite quarterback, as it might with just a solid one. None of this is to say that Watson cannot BECOME elite, either. However, as it currently stands, he is not, and therefore the comparison is an apt one.
This phenomena, of a well rounded, all around team being bounced by an elite qb surrounded by a few stars and otherwise average, fringe starters, is a recurring theme each year in the playoffs. This year it was the Texans. Years past, it was Cincinnati. And there certainly will be one in the 2019 season.
The Bengals may be content keeping Andy Dalton, and he is a decent starting quarterback in the National Football League. But bear in mind that 4 out of the last 5 Superbowls have been won by quarterbacks who will be in Canton by the end of their career. The fact is, average quarterback play isn’t something that guarantees you a CHANCE at a super bowl each year. Elite quarterback play, on the other hand, gives your team a shot. Combine that with a decent defense and a few offensive weapons, and that shot goes from good to great.
The Bengals should learn that the ship that has no captain does not get very far. Elite quarterbacks are and will be the key to winning championships in the NFL, now and into the future. The longer the bengals believe in building a team around nobody, rather than somebody, the longer they will be a “playoff” contender, and not a “Superbowl” one.