As we all know, the Cincinnati Bengals finished with a disappointing 4-11-1 record during the 2008 season.
To make matters worse, they lost their franchise quarterback Carson Parlmer for 12 games of the year and they saw the franchise's most productive player essentially fall off the radar.
We all know that Chad Ochocinco did not perform to his standards in 2008, but is he the only person there is to blame?
Before the 2008 season began, Ochocinco did everything within his power to attempt to get traded.
After some within the organization began to refer to him as a "cancer" who served as a distraction to the team, Ochocinco decided that he was going to allow the Bengals to own up to their claims.
The Washington Redskins even went as far as to offer the team two first-round draft picks for the disgruntled wide receiver.
The Bengals, however, declined the offer.
It's strange that a team consisting of a number of people who wanted Ochocinco out decided that it was in its better interest to keep him.
That comes as little surprise to me as I know that it is much easier to insult and label someone than it is to back up those claims.
It was easy to blame the "loudmouth" when things did not turn out as well as they had expected in 2007.
After all, we are all taught to believe that wide receivers who love to talk are destined to rip apart the fabric of a team's chemistry and in the process, harm their chances of winning.
Nevermind the production they bring to the table, their impact must be more than enough to compensate to the point in which the production and the package are more harmful than the lack of production that bears no package.
In Ochocinco's case, I have yet to hear a credible defense as to how his presence created a detrimental atmosphere or damaged the team in any way, shape, or form.
But when you begin to lose more games than you win, a scapegoat often becomes the most logical option.
Is it not easier to throw the blame on the shoulders of an individual than it would be to throw the blame on the shoulders of an entire defensive unit?
We are talking about a Bengals defensive unit that averaged a ranking of 23rd from 2001 to 2007.
Now can anyone tell me how many teams have achieved great postseason success with a defensive squad ranked 23rd?
No, Ochocinco never seemed to offer criticism in that direction.
As a matter of fact, I recall Ochocinco blaming himself after a 51-45 loss to the Cleveland Browns during week two of the 2007 season.
As he reflected, "if they score 51, then it is our job to go out there and score 52."
Without a single ill-word directed toward the defensive unit that gave up 51 points, he blamed himself for the loss despite catching 11 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns (becoming the franchise's all-time leading receiver in the process).
The way I see it, Ochocinco played like a Hall of Famer for six years straight prior to the beginning of the 2008 season.
If the rest of his teammates performed as well as he did, the Bengals would have been a dynasty, but the reality was they didn't.
I never seem to recall any of the defensive players being called out.
So what many people did was take the Bengals’ most productive player and find a way to blame him for their misery.
That seems to be in great contrast to what Ochocinco gave to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Not only did he become the franchises' most productive player, he gave people a reason to care about Cincinnati Bengals football.
Suddenly, no longer were they the infamous "Bungals," but they were a team that if nothing else, would provide a healthy dose of entertainment so long as No. 85 was on the field.
I would wager to bet that the Bengals sold more Chad Johnson jerseys since he joined the team in 2001 than they did of all their players combined from the decade prior to his arrival (1991-2000).
If revenue is what is important to a franchise, Ochocinco brought in the dinero as well.
Then, the 2008 season began after Ochocinco did everything he could to get out of what he called "a bad situation."
Can you really blame him?
How would you feel if you played at a Hall of Fame level for the majority of your career, only to have the team accomplish nothing in the process?
If Ochocinco was drafted by the Patriots in 2001, we might be talking about him being the greatest wide receiver of all time behind Jerry Rice.
But no, he was drafted by the Bengals and produced anyway.
Ochocinco admitted to not working out hard or preparing for the 2008 season to the best of his capability.
Hence, he got injured in the preseason and was far from top form during the remainder of the regular season.
I am not of the belief that Ochocinco woke up one day without any talent. I'm also not of the belief that he has lost a step.
Ochocinco of 2008 reminds me of Randy Moss in 2006.
We saw Moss catch 42 passes for 553 yards and three touchdowns while playing for a horrible Oakland Raiders team.
Last year, we saw Ochocinco catch 53 passes for 540 yards and four touchdowns on a horrible Cincinnati Bengals team.
For those two future Hall of Famers, their performance reflected the quality of their teams and being surrounded by no chance of success motivated them to produce at a fraction of their capabilities.
We then saw Randy Moss land smack-dab in the middle of a dream team in 2007 as he went on to catch 98 passes for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Being surrounded by a team of quality players motivated Moss to play at the level he was capable of.
You can criticize these men all you want by saying that there is no excuse to ever give less than 100 percent.
That might sound good and politically correct, but every man has their limit.
So who do we blame, the player or the organization?
I can understand blaming a player for not giving their best effort, but why has it become taboo for a player to criticize an organization or their teammates for doing the same?
Only Ochocinco did not speak out on what the reality of his situation was.
He didn't expose the organization or the rest of his teammates for what they had contributed for the group's chances of success.
He simply asked to be removed if people within the organization felt that he was to blame for their troubles.
A year removed from Ochocinco's protest, he appears to be back in top form and willing to contribute his best, regardless of how well the rest of his team performs in return.
The good news for both sides is that the Bengals look to be much improved and have the potential to make 2008 a distant memory, or nightmare if you will.
The real question now is if the Bengals improve and Ochocinco returns to the "Chad of old," who will we have to credit for their success?
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