Training camp is around the corner for the majority of NFL teams. Once again, the quest for regular season superiority and dominance will be on the minds of 32 teams. The Cincinnati Bengals will be one of those franchises. Since 2011, they have been a fixture in primetime postseason play. Unfortunately, the story has been the same. There’s a “goose egg” in the wins column. Is this the year it changes?
When Marvin Lewis took over as the head coach, he made promises. Like any good politician, he mentioned the things that should happen with the Bengals. Words like playoffs, championships and Super Bowl peppered his interviews. His press conferences appealed to Bengals faithful and the rest is history. Mike Brown has been true to Lewis for 14 years.
The patience of fans is getting thin. The waiting period has been filled with close calls and sheer blowouts. Lewis and the Bengals have yet to put up a playoff victory. Under Carson Palmer, Cincinnati came close to getting over the hump. Palmer suffered a knee injury in that fateful 2005 WildCard game. The Bengals didn’t return to the postseason until 2009. That was also a disaster.
The drought has been hovering over Cincinnati since 1991. That last playoff win came against the Houston Oilers, on January 6. Twenty-five years is a long time, no matter how you look at it.
The future looks bright for the Bengals. The offseason was filled with speculation, as Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones were allowed to walk. The departure of Reggie Nelson also left a sour taste with Bengals fans. But, the 2016 draft class delivered hope. With a returning group of savvy veterans, the additional rookies look to be the final tweak that Marvin’s Men need.
The Dalton-Green regime is overdue. The Bengals have one of the most daunting rosters in the NFL. Andy Dalton wowed skeptics in 2015. His coming of age was just what the offense needed to break out. He proved that the deep ball was no problem. Dalton’s season came to an end, after suffering “the fracture” in Week 14. Before the thumb stopped him, Dalton posted a QBR of 73.1 and a rating of 106.3. Both were career highs.
A.J. Green has been amazing, since entering the league. His appearance at No. 16, on NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2016, was inevitable. Per Cincy Jungle, Green has been ranked as high as No. 9 (2014) and as low as No. 77 (2011).
When Dalton was asked about the transition from the departed Hue Jackson to Ken Zampese, he didn’t skip a beat. He talked up his new play caller via the Star-Telegram.
“He’s been my quarterback coach ever since I’ve been in Cincinnati so I think the transition has been smooth. I understand how he works, I understand expectations and all the different things just because we’ve been together going on six years now.”
The collection of players going to training camp is jaw dropping. Bengals brass was instrumental, in keeping the nucleus together. There were also key free agents brought in. Karlos Dansby has brought his infectious brand of positivity to Bengals Nation. Of the hungry players looking for a ring, Dansby is making sure his voice gets heard.
At 34-years-old, Mr. Dansby is the oldest linebacker on the Bengals roster. But, his willingness to sign a team-friendly contract shows his desire to get to the postseason again. That tenacious attitude will be part of the Bengals claim to a playoff victory.
One thing the Bengals don’t have to fight is a toxic environment. Even though the playoff victories are pending, the framework is there. The continuity of players and familiarity of coaches should encourage winning in the postseason.
[Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images]