For as long as I can remember, the Bengals have long been a staple of an inconsistent tradition that usually only remains consistent in losing. The harsh reality of a franchise that continues to disappoint their fans can draw a very real comparison to what has been happening over the past decade with their cross-state rivals.
After years of being known as nothing more then the "Bungals," things for once began to look up for the Bengals as their offense evolved into one of the more powerful forces in the NFL.
After years of poor draft choices, the Bengals struck gold by drafting USC's Heisman Trophy winner, Carson Palmer. That, combined with the evolution of Chad Johnson and the sudden reliability of T.J. Houshmandzadeh gave birth to the first signs of hope Bengals fans has seen in years.
I myself thought that the Bengals had all of the potential in the world leading up to their home playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005.
Things started off great too with Carson Palmer hooking up with Chris Henry for a 66-yard pass which set a Bengals postseason mark for longest play in franchise history.
Sadly, immediately after Carson Palmer released the football he was hit late by Kimo von Oelhoffen, and his knee was torn to shreds.
The Bengals would not see any more of Carson Palmer that game as they lost to the future Super Bowl Champions on the arm of Jon Kitna. Not that Kitna was the man to blame, but everyone knew he was no Carson Palmer.
Since then, the Bengals have continued a downward spiral that never managed to let up. Carson Palmer managed to make a heroic comeback from his knee surgery and returned to top form in 2006 but the inconsistency of the team as a whole held them back from their potential.
Chad Johnson changed his name to Chad Ocho-Cinco and spent the 2008 offseason on his personal campaign to be removed from the losing franchise.
Fighting injuries, Ocho-Cinco's numbers deflated to more then 50 percent less then what the Bengals had become used to.
Carson Palmer missed the majority of the 2008 season with an injured elbow.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh looks to become a Free Agent in 2009.
Certainly it would be easy to say that things are not looking up for the Bengals.
Then again, could things really get much worse after finishing with a 4-11-1 record?
Well, they did manage to win their last three game in a row at the end of the 2008 season and considering who they were playing with. I find that to be an impressive step in the right direction.
Some might argue that they should have played for draft picks, but I think that the people of Cincinnati are getting tired of that act. Bengals fans need wins and that is exactly what their team gave them at the end of the 2008 season.
On a huge plus-side, Carson Palmer will be returning in 2009. When healthy, he's easily a top-five quarterback in the league and has all of the potential to set things right again.
Sure, they might lose T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but with a high first-round draft pick, Michael Crabtree might not be far out of their sight.
The difficulty for them is going to be playing in such a difficult division. The Steelers and Ravens are still the teams to beat but I do believe that a revived Bengals team could contend with them if they can build themselves back to their potential.
Fear not Bengals fans, things are looking up.
Don't expect a Super Bowl or even a playoff run in 2009 but I'm certain that if they managed to pull off a winning season, most of you would not be too disappointed.