What’s Really Holding The Bengals Back?

The Cincinnati Bengals have been one of the most successful NFL franchises, over the past few years. Since 2011, the Bengals have been as successful as some of the elite teams. The team has turned around its losing ways and gained respect with once skeptical analysts. With the turnaround seemingly complete, there’s still something holding them back. What’s really causing the problem?

Has Marvin Lewis been the solution?

Since his arrival in 2003, Lewis has been able to turn the Bengals into a respectable franchise. Since being hired by Mike Brown, Lewis has become the most successful coach in team history.

The Bengals have become a staple in the playoffs. According to Pro Football Reference, Bengals fans have witnessed the team compile a 52-27-1 record, since 2011. Those wins put them behind only the Patriots (61), Broncos (58), Packers (56), and Seahawks (53). This has all been accomplished under the watch of Marvin Lewis. But is that enough to absolve him from the problem?

For five years, the Bengals have looked strong going into the postseason and faltered. In 2014, the Indianapolis Colts beat an injury riddled Bengals squad. Lewis and staff were still able to get the Orange and Black into the playoffs.

In 2015, the media and fans were shocked. The most talented Bengals team in years was minutes away from a prime time turnaround. With less than two minutes left, Cincinnati experienced a meltdown that will never be forgotten. The chaos led to another defeat in the playoffs.

What's Really
Analysts and fans pinned the ugly ending on Lewis. The aftermath led most to believe Lewis had lost control of the team. Even though the Bengals have stockpiled W’s, they haven’t claimed an AFC Championship.

Lewis has vowed to retire, when the Bengals win it all.

“I want to hand Mike the trophy. Then just walk away.”

Some fans have wanted him to walk, for years.

Refusal to readjust

Hue Jackson is now running the ship for the Cleveland Browns. He has gained respect around the NFL as an offensive genius. But were there times when his play calling was over the top? Exotic formations and wild shifts couldn’t cover the fact that the Bengals offense was not in the top 10.

Based on numbers from ESPN, the Bengals running game slipped from a lofty No. 6 ranking in 2014, to thirteenth in 2015. Jeremy Hill has been pegged as the reason for the huge slip. During the year, Jackson continued to hand the ball to Hill despite his slumping numbers.

Game plans that didn’t work in the first half weren’t adjusted in the final two quarters. When the Denver Broncos switched from man coverage to a sagging zone, Jackson failed to change the attack. That lack of detail cost the Bengals a No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs.

What's Really
Is there a malevolent spirit involved?

This has been discussed before. There are a few curses that diehard fans believe in, but that’s just another excuse. The Bengals have had the talent to get the job done. The human element is what’s holding the franchise back. Mike Brown has made strides to accommodate the wishes of Marvin Lewis. Bo Jackson, Paul Brown or Woody Harrelson are not to blame for the subpar performances.

The Bengals have not been prepared for any of the five playoff games they’ve lost since 2011. Whether it was a bad game plan or horrible clock management, the major losses are piling up. Bengals fans are waiting patiently for the team to advance beyond the first round.

In 2015, the Bengals showed that they were able to start strong. Next season, there will have to be more accountability from everyone. A strong start will have to be capped with an even stronger finish.

[Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]