Bleacher Report is a great site for aspiring journalists. Some of us already have our journalism degree, and are waiting for their "big break", while others do this because we love to write.
It is obvious, to me at least, that the journalism degree does not mean that the reporter has any idea what he is talking about. I have never called out a professional writer, but there is a first time for everything, so I am calling out one of the writers from ESPN.
I read an article on espn.com, from reporter David Fleming . Mr. Fleming writes about how smart the Cincinnati Bengals are for not only taking a chance on Larry Johnson, but for ignoring the past of many of the free agents the Bengals have brought in, and the many players with questionable character they have drafted.
I will say that I am very impressed with the play of the Bengals so far this season. They have swept both the Steelers and Ravens, which is a task that no one had thought was possible. But is that any reason to crown them as the model franchise that NFL teams should mold themselves after?
Lets take a look at the real model franchises in the NFL.
Pittsburgh Steelers . The only team in the NFL that has six Lombardi Trophies in their trophy case. They have had a total of three head coaches in the last 30+ years. They are a model of stability. They build their team through the draft, signing few free agents, and never break the bank on anyone they did not select in the draft.
Though they occasionally do sign players that have had a question or two in their past, everyone they bring in, buys into the system of Bill Belichick, and become a model citizen.
New York Giants . The Mara family has run a consistent tight ship. Signing one of the toughest head coaches, Tom Coughlin, to build a team of stability. When they did have a problem with one of their players, Plaxico Burress, he was suspended, then released prior to going to jail.
Indianapolis Colts . Another family run business, that builds their team through the draft. Hardly ever do you hear about a player on the Colts that is in any kind of legal trouble.
What do these teams have in common? They have won the last seven Super Bowls.
How have the Bengals and their brand of bringing in problem players done in that time? One playoff appearance, losing their first game.
Mr. Fleming says in his article, "So don't knock the Bengals for being one of the few teams out there who understand and exploit the character myth." I would like to take a look at some of those other teams that have brought in players with character issues.
Dallas Cowboys . Jerry Jones has done everything in his power to win a Super Bowl since Jimmy Johnson quit the team. He has brought in players like Terrel Owens and Pac Man Jones who have done nothing but divide the locker room.
How have the Cowboys done this decade? They have not won a playoff game.
How have the Redskins done this decade? One playoff victory.
Oakland Raiders . Al Davis is another owner that does not care about the character of his team. His head coach has been accused of spousal abuse, and of breaking the jaw on one of his assistants.
How have the Raiders done this decade? One Super Bowl loss.
Does this really show that the Bengals are on the right path to becoming a model franchise in the NFL? I don't think so. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of bad teams that do have a good year once in a while.
Cleveland Browns, 2007. Two years ago, the Cleveland Browns finished the season one game out of the playoffs. Many people thought they were a team on the rise, and would become perennial contenders.
How have the Browns done since? They finished the 2008 season picking in the top 5 of the draft, and they are on pace to be the worst team in the NFL this year.
Tennessee Titans, 2008. The Titans finished 2008 with the best record and home field advantage in the AFC. After being beat down by the Baltimore Ravens, their season ended on their home field.
They have won three games in a row, but it will take a miracle for them to make the playoffs.
Is it because the Titans and the Browns were really that good during those years? Or could it be that parity in the NFL gave each of them one good year, and reality sunk back in, and put them back to their original position in the pecking order?
If you look at the teams I named at first, Steelers, Patriots, Giants, Colts, you see that the common denominator of them is they have stability and quality people on their teams. Though there may be a questionable person or two on their rosters, they still have the stability to keep those players in line.
When you have a locker room with many players that have been in trouble, and are in trouble, you can not become a legitimate, long time competitor in the NFL.
The Cincinnati Bengals are doing good because the players ARE staying out of trouble so far. But could it have anything to do with the fact they have the third easiest schedule in the NFL? Could it be because they finished last year in third place in the AFC North, and are playing a third place schedule?
Is it even possible that the Bengals are just like the Browns of 2007 and the Titans of 2008, and will once again sink back into their rightful position in the pecking order of the NFL after this season?
All I know, if I were awarded an NFL expansion team, and I had to build my team like any other team in the NFL, it certainly will not be like the Bengals. It would be like the first group I mentioned.
And as for Mr. Flemings final thought, where he said, "There will be 31 teams out there wishing they were as clever as the Bengals." I think the only teams that will be wishing that are the perennial bottom dwellers, and the real championship calibre team will be glad they are built the way they are.