Recently, the guys over at Pro Football Focus talked about the fatal flaw for all 32 teams in the NFL. It should come as no surprise what they deemed to be the biggest flaw for the Cincinnati Bengals.
What some pundits would call the weak spot of the Bengals team is the offensive line but that is not the case. PFF correctly identifies the deficiency for the team as the coaching staff.
Back in August, when writing what he thinks is the biggest flaw for each team, Mike Renner writes:
"In an offseason that featured a good deal of coaching turnover, the Bengals stayed status quo at their head coach and coordinator positions. Quite frankly, there’s not much from their first two years to suggest Zac Taylor, Brian Callahan and Lou Anorumo will turn things around. In the past two years, neither the offense nor the defense has finished above 26th in expected points added (EPA) per play."
That is a fair assessment. We do not know if Zac Taylor or Lou Anarumo can turn things around. They have not had a lot of experience as coordinators in the NFL. Both of them only briefly served as interim coordinators before arriving in Cincinnati.
As a matter of fact, the Dolphins offense scored fewer points per game after Taylor took over for jettisoned OC, Bill Lazor.
More recently, Renner and Austin Gayle sat down to preview the AFC North on Youtube. Here, they talk about several things, including the “fatal flaw” of each team.
Gayle thinks that the head coach is Cincinnati’s weakest link.
"I think Zac Taylor is the fatal flaw for the Bengals in that he has no excuses, in my opinion. Even with that offensive line, no excuses to not put together, with Joe Burrow and that receiving core, a top 15 offense. And they don’t, I think that could be it for Zac."
Renner echoes those sentiments and even takes it a step further.
People tend to dwell on the fact that the offense was not where it needed to be. Renner points out that the defense was also far from where it could be. He blames the entire coaching staff.
"“The fatal flaw to me is the coaching staff. Unchanged, the coordinator positions and the head coach from last year. Two years of that staff in tact, they have not finished above 26th in EPA per play on either side of the ball in either year of their tenure. And now, I’m not saying that they should’ve been making the playoffs with the talent they have. They’re obviously not a playoff caliber roster. But, if you were a good coaching staff; you could overcome… This is a defense that had talent enough to be an average defense last year. An offense that had talent enough to be an average offense last year. They weren’t close on either of these.”"
First, the Bengals’ defense was ranked fourth in the first quarters of games. They ranked 31st from that point on. Showing the defense was unwilling or unable to adjust throughout games.
Second, the defense gave up 5.8 yards per carry against three or more receiver sets. That was the worst in the league. And that is a major concern because teams run most out of three or more wide receiver sets.
This would explain why the Bengals concentrated so much on the defensive line in the draft. This also points to the coaching staff thinking it was more on the players than the scheme.
But Gayle still does not have faith. “I just don’t have a ton of confidence in this coaching staff improving leaps and bounds.”
If you are into betting, Renner offers another nugget.
"Draft Kings have them at 6.5wins. Take the under. I’m taking that one… How many games are they winning in the division? How many times have they beaten the Browns and Ravens? Zero. It would be a tough ask for them to beat either of those teams. Maybe take one from the Steelers. So you’re one and five in that division?"
Obviously, 1-5 in the AFC North would not cut it.
Hopefully, this coaching staff has a plan. This is Taylor’s staff. These are Taylor’s players. Now is year three for this coaching staff. They have lived and hopefully learned from their mistakes and successes. Enough to prove the NFL world wrong.