Incredible is the word that comes to mind when describing last year’s Cincinnati Bengals. Fans were hopeful that this team would progress in the right direction in becoming competitive, but no one could have ever guessed how far they would actually go. After all, the team had everything going against them.
Zac Taylor was 6-25 in his first two seasons as head coach, and franchise quarterback Joe Burrow had only played three snaps during the preseason after coming off MCL and ACL ligament tears to his left knee and damage to his PCL and meniscus. Yet, this team found the chemistry and set a winning culture in the locker room to overcome the odds and make an incredible post-season run.
Like many other fans, I was overcome with emotion when Burrow and company made their way back from a 14-7 deficit at halftime in the AFC Championship game in Kansas City to defeat the Chiefs 27-24 and bring the Lamar Hunt trophy back to Cincinnati.
The AFC is absolutely loaded. One could even argue that out of the 16 teams in the AFC, 14 of those teams could finish with a winning record and a trip to the playoffs. Each week will be more challenging, so what will it take to repeat and make another run in the AFC?
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference
Having Consistency & Stability
Winning teams have consistency and stability within their program. The stripes certainly have the advantage in this both these areas with having their coaching staff and quarterback going into their third year together.
Most teams are fortunate if they find their franchise quarterback let alone a quarterback who has been in a system more than a few years. Quarterback Joe Burrow has spent the last three years mastering the scheme, figuring out what works and doesn’t work with his teammates, and, oh yeah, having the experience of playing in a Super Bowl.
Then there is the continuity of the Bengals coaching staff. According to Jay Morrison from The Athletic, the Bengals are one of just two teams with a head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator who have been in their current positions for at least four seasons.
Having the same coordinators for Taylor’s staff plays an important role. How important you might ask? Via Morrison from The Athletic:
"“I think it’s really important,” Taylor said of his staff’s coaching consistency. “The schemes haven’t deviated, so I think there’s more guys who understand the intent of why we’re calling things. You just look at the guys who have been here for four or three or two years, they’ve run these plays a ton and they’ve heard Lou and Darrin and Brian say why we do this over the course of many years. It’s not just knowing the play, it’s understanding the intent of why it’s being called.”"
The stripes organization did a tremendous job of keeping most of the team together only losing one key player on both sides of the ball. The Bengals must use their consistency & stability to their advantage to help guide them to being a contender in the AFC conversation.