A Cincinnati Bengals “rebuild” does not have to take long
The Cincinnati Bengals sit at the bottom of the NFL pecking order but can look to Conference Championship Sunday for inspiration on how to get out of there quickly.
The term “rebuild” has been associated with the Cincinnati Bengals ever since Zac Taylor was hired as head coach. After going 2-14 in 2019, the term is not going anywhere for now. Its use is understandable.
However, in sports, “rebuild” implies that the process to get the franchise back in contention has to take a relatively long time. That is not true.
The NFL is not Major League Baseball. In MLB, a bad team generally stays bad for a long time unless they have the financial resources of the Yankees or Dodgers. There is no such thing as a rebuild in pro football. You are either winning or losing and each year is completely separate from the one before.
Just this year, two teams that sit a game away from the Super Bowl were not on anyone’s radar less than a year ago.
The San Francisco 49ers were 4-12 last year. They nailed the 2019 draft and got four solid and immediate contributors. Jimmy Garoppolo finally found a way to stay healthy. Boom. 13-3 and the number one seed in the NFC.
Now, if Taylor rebounds from his tough beginnings as a head coach half as well as Kyle Shanahan has, fans would be thrilled. Bengals fans have zero faith in the front office to execute any sort of productive plan, perhaps rightly so. Still, the 49ers story is one they should find hope in.
That hope can also be found in the Tennessee Titans. They were 2-4 this year and shutout by the Joe Flacco led Denver Broncos. They made a quarterback change and figured out that running back Derrick Henry was their best player. They are one win away from a Cinderella trip to the Super Bowl. The people who matter knowing that running the ball with Joe Mixon is what the Bengals do best would be a massive step in the right direction.
The quarterback is not carrying the team in either San Francisco or Tennessee. This is also important to note for the Bengals and their fans. The immediate expectations for Joe Burrow, or whoever Cincinnati’s next quarterback ends up being are getting a little ridiculous.
There are stories like the 49ers and Titans every year. Frankly, there is no reason for the Bengals, or any other team to go three decades between playoff wins in the NFL. It takes a special level of incompetence.
The Bengals have lost for 30 years doing things their way. It is often said that the NFL is a copycat league. Should the Bengals finally look outside their organizational bubble for answers, copying a bit from the 49ers and a bit from the Titans would be wise. If they do, contention as soon as 2020 is realistic.