By Mark Carpenter –
I knew it could be bad. When I first looked at the schedule, it was obvious that the first six weeks could be really ugly, and so far for the Cincinnati Bengals, it has been even worse than ugly. A team that was expected to contend for a Super Bowl berth is now relegated to being an under .500 team with a looming trip to Foxboro to likely take a drubbing from Brady and Belichick worse than the one Sunday from Dak and Zeke.
The question on the lips of every Bengals fan is simply, “Where did it go wrong?” This team was applauded as having the most talented roster in the NFL, but they are certainly not showing it. The season is definitely on the brink, three games behind the Steelers in the division and not even in the wild card conversation at the moment. Now, granted a few good weeks can change that, but has this team shown you anything to make you think they can reel of five or six wins in a row.
The first responsibility has to start at the top with head coach Marvin Lewis. When Lewis took over this team over a decade ago, he changed a losing culture to a winning culture, weeded out a lot of eggheads, and turned the Bengals into an organization that was admired all over the league, but now? The window of opportunity in any professional sport is short and could it be that the window for the Bengals shut last year when the team likely had the best shot at making a Super Bowl that imploded on a rainy January night.
Personally, I want to see Lewis show some fire-grab a face mask and chew out a player, yell at an official, say something in a news conference that will get you fined by the NFL. Though he coached for the enemy, show a little Bill Cowher. Bengals fans would probably pitch in to pay the fine. It almost seems sometimes like Lewis is too nice of a guy (remember Dusty Baker?). Who gets held accountable for debacles like Sunday in Dallas? Offensive lineman, you just got blown away all day by the Dallas defense, time for someone else to give it a try. Have you ever seen anyone on the Bengals get benched for poor play? I am not in the locker room daily, but if athletes get so comfortable that they don’t worry about their jobs, it can certainly spill over on to the field. If I didn’t show up here in the office on our deadline day to get the paper finished, I would likely be on the hot seat very quickly. Is anyone in stripes being held accountable?
Another thought-the coaching staff had 10 days to prepare and did you see anyone at all who looked prepared for anything the Cowboys did? It wasn’t hard for the average fan to know how the Cowboy offense was going to operate but the Bengals’ coaches couldn’t figure it out? Game management and in-game adjustments have been nearly non-existent with this team. Again, who is accountable?
Hopefully you are football savvy enough not to blame the quarterback. Under extreme pressure all season and with few options it seems on offense, Andy Dalton has played admirably. The running game has been non-existent, the offensive line has been horrid, and if AJ Green isn’t open, the passing game has been a challenge, though no fault of Dalton’s. Hue Jackson may be 0-5 in the abyss known as the Cleveland Browns, but do you think the offense might be missing him just a bit? This was supposed to be the year that Jeremy Hill played with a big chip on his shoulder and ran wild-so far, no good, and the team never uses Giovani Bernard enough to take full advantage of his talents.
On the other side of the ball, how is Mike Zimmer looking to you now? That brings up another point-have the Bengals let too much talent get away, both on the sidelines and on the field? Besides Zimmer and Jackson, how about Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu? It is rather obvious that those two weapons are missed and the replacements have not panned out through five games. How would Reggie Nelson look in the secondary right now? How would anyone look on the defense right now that could actually tackle someone?
The sad part is that all of us as Bengals fans know that nothing is going to change anytime soon. Mike Brown values loyalty and he isn’t going to have heads roll in the middle of the season, even with a team that has gone 6-8 since their 8-0 start against a weak schedule last year. Did anyone notice that the Ravens fired their offensive coordinator after five games? That is not happening in Cincinnati. I just heard a radio talk show host discussing that very fact, that maybe the coaches are so comfortable that they have no worries about job security. I certainly don’t like seeing anyone lose their job, thought I think their pay might sustain them for awhile.
Now we dread what is going to happen on Sunday when the best coach in the NFL, like him or not, is scheming right now and likely laughing and thinking, “this won’t be too hard at all.” The Bengals have just gotten the proverbial butt-whipping in Dallas and now have to try to right the ship in New England. I am sorry but I don’t have a lot of faith in that happening. We know how it will go…it may stay close for awhile, Belichick will make adjustments, the Bengals coaches won’t, and you know the rest.
I am trying my best to look ahead and find some glimmer of light at the end of this dismal tunnel, but it is getting more and more difficult. It is basically “put up or shut up” time for this team and we will certainly see what they are made up of on Sunday. No matter how bad it might get, I will still be there in front of the television, hoping for the best but expecting the worst. At least it beats watching Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.