Stay off the bridges! No, that is not my warning for drivers in case of slick conditions. That is my warning to those Cincinnati Bengals fans whose lives were destroyed when their beloved orange and black laid an egg bigger than that of any dinosaur on Sunday afternoon. We don’t need any front page stories of depressed Bengals fans inhabiting the Simon Kenton or the William Harsha bridges. I had hoped that my first column of 2014 would be a joyful new year celebration, but thanks to Sunday’s dismal afternoon, that won’t be the case. But I will not be driving to those bridges. Folks, it’s just a game. Anyway, as cold as it is this morning, anyone leaping from those bridges would likely freeze in mid-air.
I am as loyal and die-hard a Bengals fan as anyone and I really couldn’t find the words to describe what I saw on Sunday at that moment, but as I reflect back I start thinking these come to mind-unprepared, out coached, poor play calling, and as Yogi Berra so aptly put it, “deja vu all over again.”
Playing the blame game will not change things but it is certainly justified to point some fingers at Marvin “Dusty” Lewis. Once again, the Bengals head coach has guided his team through a successful regular season to win a division crown, only to choke on the big stage of the playoff arena for the third consecutive year. As I have said before, I wish Marvin would just once throw down the headset or get in the face of a player after a bonehead play, of which there are always numerous to choose from. He might want to notice what being a “player’s coach” did for Dusty Baker.
There has been talk floating around the social media circles that it’s time to move Marvin up to a front office position. Well, in case you haven’t noticed you have to be kinfolk to get those jobs. (Brown family, get it?) Marvin has one year left on his contract and he isn’t going anywhere. Now, if we are having this same conversation after another disaster next year, who knows? Marvin and Bill Belichick are the longest-tenured coaches in the NFL, but it’s safe to say the gap there is fairly wide.
Then of course the fingers start pointing at quarterback Andy Dalton. Three years, three playoff appearances, zero playoff wins. I still have some faith in Dalton and thought a lot of the bad decisions that he made on Sunday were not of his doing, i.e. someone try pass blocking. For those calling for his head, Dalton is not going anywhere either. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team brought in a quarterback to give him a little push but I fully expect #14 to be under center next fall.
What might make Dalton a more effective quarterback is an offensive coordinator who actually utilizes all the weapons the Bengals have accumulated. After Sunday, OC Jay Gruden has taken a lot of heat and deservedly so. I am in no way an offensive guru, but it doesn’t take much football knowledge to know that the Bengals are pretty predictable on offense. My problem with Sunday is two carries for 16 yards on the first two plays of the game, then start throwing it. Then there’s the long pass on fourth and short and the list goes on. I heard Gruden say on the radio last night, and quite happily I might add, that he had three interviews for head coaching positions. I hate to see anyone at any level lose their job, but it might be time for he and the Bengals to part ways. (I don’t think he would have the financial problems that you or I might have if we suddenly were jobless, so my sympathy wanes somewhat.)
The beneficiary of all the criticism going everywhere else might be defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Zimmer’s group was gashed for nearly 200 yards rushing on Sunday but overall he has done another outstanding job considering that he lost his two best players. Zimmer will likely be interviewed for head coaching positions and the Bengals need to do what they can to keep him around. He has the respect of his players and is a valuable asset. If you need to see proof of his ability, look no further than Vontaze Burfict.
I saw a post on Facebook on Sunday evening that may have summed it up best. It simply said. “Sports turns rational people into irrational people.” That’s it folks. Don’t wrap your whole lives around the success or failure of a professional sports team, especially the Bengals because you know they are always going to break your heart.
Now it’s time for us to pick a new team to root for in the Super Bowl race and as long as I don’t have to hear about Brady and Manning, I can root for about anyone left. How about Shayne Graham kicking a game-winning field goal for the Saints in the Super Bowl? He did score more points last weekend than the Bengals offense. It doesn’t matter to me, I’ll be watching the Big Blue! Go Cats!