Just when you thought the Bengals were turning the corner and looking like a dominant force, it happens again. Something occurs that makes you scratch your head and wonder if the franchise has been cursed. It’s human nature to witness the seemingly supernatural occurrences that befall the Bengals each year and wonder if it’s the wrath of the football gods. Save your wonderment. It’s just bad coaching. There’s no curse on the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals are just the recipients of bad coaching and bad timing. The roster is filled with elite level players, from top to bottom. They’ve achieved marvelous things in the time they’ve been together. But they just can’t get it done when it’s necessary. There’s always that one game in primetime that kills their momentum.
Actually, that’s not a true assessment of why the Bengals are losers under the bright lights. It’s true that the coaches can’t get on the field and play. But it’s also worth noting that players are as good as their coaching staff.
The primetime “curse” is always the first thing to be tossed into the ring, when the Bengals woes are discussed. As documented by ESPN, the Bengals have a dismal time when playing on the big-stage. Since 2011, they’re 4-10 when the lights are shinning. But looking deeper, there are clues to other reasons the Bengals aren’t producing like they should.
When Carson Palmer was under center for the Bengals, the story was the same as it is now. The primetime losses were a big concern. Fans were quick to blame the problems on his inability to produce in huge games. Yet, since Palmer’s resurgence with the Arizona Cardinals, the bright-lights syndrome has vanished. According to SB Nation, the Cardinals had a franchise record five games in primetime during the 2015 season. How many did they lose? Palmer led the the Cards to a sparkling 5-0 mark in those night games.
As a football purist, that leads to the logical conclusion that it wasn’t his fault the Bengals were so horrible in primetime. There’s one thing that has remained constant with the Bengals. From 2003 until the present, Marvin Lewis has been the head coach.
When Palmer demanded to be traded from the Bengals, he decided to retire rather than play under Lewis and Mike Brown. He has said that there were some things that would never be right with the organization. But he never went into detail about those “things” that needed to be addressed. Could it have been the coaching?
Now, there’s a similar situation evolving with Andy Dalton. He’s winless in four playoff appearances and has a horrible record during night games. For those fans that like to say the Bengals don’t win in primetime, that’s not the case. They just don’t win consistently. Cincinnati was 1-3 in primetime for the 2015 regular season. Each loss was devoid of a running game that may have salvaged the outcome. That sits squarely on the shoulders of the coaching staff.
When the team isn’t producing, it’s the job of the head coach to address the situation and correct the problem. Marvin Lewis is a defensive-minded coach. But when the running game suffered, it was time to confront O-coordinator Jackson and demand answers.
The mentality for the games hasn’t been challenged. The player’s mindset has to be changed and molded to fit a new agenda. But that’s a tough road, when the media is bombarding the franchise with the same rhetoric. Players can easily be sucked into a belief system that isn’t based on fact.
The latest primetime bomb for the Bengals was a 20-17 overtime loss in Denver. After being dominated by Cincinnati in the first half, Denver made halftime adjustments and came out firing on all cylinders. Hue Jackson continued to run the same plays with no sign of adjustments. Until that coaching mindset is alleviated, the same results will prevail.
There’s no sinister cloud hanging over the city of Cincinnati. There’s no malevolent spirit waiting to thwart the Bengals chances for greatness. There’s something else going on. Part of it’s just bad coaching at the worst possible moments.
[Photo by Justin Edwards/Getty Images]