Bengals: Zac Taylor catches heat but Duke Tobin has the most to explain

Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin speaks to the media during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.Bengals Nfl Combine 125
Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin speaks to the media during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.Bengals Nfl Combine 125 /

Cincinnati Bengals’ head coach Zac Taylor has taken the majority of the heat for Joe Burrow’s injury but it’s Duke Tobin that has the most to explain.

The finger-pointing has begun in Cincinnati as the Bengals franchise attempts to come to grips with the loss of star quarterback Joe Burrow. In the immediate aftermath of the stomach-churning injury, the offensive line and head coach Zac Taylor were the primary targets of criticism. However, de-facto general manager Duke Tobin has more to explain than either of those parties.

Of course, Taylor and the players in the offensive trenches that subjected Burrow to brutal hit after brutal hit deserve their share of the blame. In particular, Taylor’s scheme that put the rookie signal-caller on track to shatter the pass attempts record for first-year quarterbacks serves as a smoking gun.

But the truth is, all of this could have been avoided prior to the season. The fanbase was practically begging the front office to shore up the offensive line in the months leading up to the 2020 campaign. Instead, Tobin gambled on the development of underwhelming talent.

Whether he meant to or not, Taylor placed some of the blame on Tobin in his press conference following the game,

"“All we can do is make progress as the season goes. We gave up a lot of pressures in the beginning of the season. In these last couple of weeks our guys have done a great job of keeping people off Joe… it’s been a revolving door of players that have been doing a great job.”"

In some ways, Taylor is right. All he and his coaching staff can do is make progress with the players they have as the season goes on. Duke Tobin provided the players.

It’s not like the state of the offensive line snuck up on Tobin either. The unit has been among the worst in the league since 2016. Inactivity on the free-agent market and poor drafting can be blamed for that.

Taylor has done more to improve the Bengals’ offensive line than Tobin

Tobin led the way for the drafting of early-round offensive linemen busts such as Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, and Billy Price. Not to mention, the free-agent decisions to allow Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler to walk.

It was Tobin that gave Taylor no other option than to start Bobby Hart at tackle (for far too long), Michael Jordan at guard, and at times, Alex Redmond.

On the other hand, it was Taylor who was at the helm when the team drafted their only reliable tackle, Jonah Williams. It was Taylor who pushed the franchise out of their free-agent slumber and got them to sign guys like Xavier Su’a-Filo and Quinton Spain.

Tobin got the final say on these decisions, but it’s no coincidence that the correct moves began to be made only once Taylor joined the organization.

Taylor can only do so much with what he’s given. He inherited an offensive line with zero reliable players outside of Trey Hopkins, who, at the time of Taylor’s take over, hadn’t even established himself yet. Since then, he’s put together a significantly better combination but that responsibility shouldn’t have fallen on his shoulders.

Sure, Taylor needs to explain why his play-calling allowed Burrow to be in harm’s way so often. But Tobin needs to offer up an explanation as to why the offensive line hasn’t been fixed in four years and why the front office gambled on inexperience.

Look, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Burrow’s injury doesn’t fall entirely on the shoulders of Tobin, just like it doesn’t fall entirely on the shoulders of Taylor or the offensive line. But if the Bengals are going to ensure that their star quarterback remains healthy in the future, all aspects need to be inspected.

The organization will have every opportunity to make the offensive line situation right this offseason. They have the ability to create cap space and they’re trending towards a top-three pick. The pressure on Tobin and the rest of the front office needs to be turned up several notches to ensure they utilize those resources correctly to protect Joe Burrow.

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