As the Florida Gators celebrated victory in the face of adversity, the Bearcats miserable conclusion to a perfect season was complete in its "so close but yet so far" conclusion.
Yet as much as there were coaching questions with Brian Kelly's departure to Notre Dame and the suffering play calling that followed on the Bearcat's offense, the Bengals are suffering from either magnificent subterfuge on offense or facing a similar fate with the post season dawning on the horizon.
Let's face it, Bob Bratkowski is no Bruce Coslet (Offensive Coordinator from 1986-89, 1993-95, Head Coach 1996-2000) as an offensive coordinator. Sure, Bengals' fans still remember him in his later stint as a inept coach of an inept franchise—but the franchise was long inept before Coslet had a chance to right the ship—and with little or no resources.
Yet in 1988—the last Super Bowl season for the Bengals—Coslet put together a dynamic offensive scheme that ran hard with two productive running backs (James Brooks and Ickey Woods) and a wide receiving group that clearly was more open ended than the current limitations (Eddie Brown, Tim McGhee, and Chris Collinsworth).
While some may argue that the addition of a consistent tight end in the 1988 Bengals (Rodney Holman) along with the three consistent wide receivers, they would be mistaken to say that 1988 had more advantages than this year's 2009 Bengals.
Why? For one, lets look at what the Bengals brought to the table this season. By all appearances, the trio for this year's team was Chad Ocho Cinco, Chris Henry, and Laverneus Coles.
Yet when Henry went down, the depth that the 1988 team lacked in the wide receiving corps were ready to fill the void—and yet: nothing. Andre Caldwell has been inconsistent and inconsistently used. Quan Cosby—a very productive college athlete who has shown promise—has not yet been established as the "Chris Henry replacement" though by all signs from the San Diego game—he should be.
This leaves Ocho Cinco and Coles. Ocho Cinco has worked harder than ever—and opposing defenses have adjusted their coverage packages accordingly. Yet with Palmer's favorite target blanketed there has also been inconsistent signs from Coles—a veteran with a pedigree that Bengal Nation was hoping to see more utilization.
At the tight end position, one that took a tremendous amount of damage in the preseason—with the early loses of veteran stalwart Reggie Kelley and acquisition (now free agent) Ben Utecht—no single replacement has emerged in either J.P. Foschi or Ben Coats.
It would seem—from this analysis—that 1988 had the advantages at tight end but that is far from the case. The depth enjoyed this year was not seen in '88 and yet a spectacular run was had.
This leaves the question if the aforementioned is at least some what accurate—what is wrong or rather what are the Bengals doing and—more specifically—what is Bratkowski doing?
All fans applaud touting a strong running game and exploiting those teams that cannot stop the run—but where is the pass? Where is it being developed? Is there a plan b? Why are the the passing schemes seemingly only developed for Caldwell and Foschi on the between the hash marks and Ocho Cinco outside of the hashes? Where is Cosby after a spectacular game against San Diego?
The real question, though: Is Bratkowski saving the best for last—holding his cards—in a veritable chess match that leads to the Super Bowl?