After surpassing everyone’s expectations with a 9-3 start, the Bengals characteristically disappointed fans down the stretch. They lost their second playoff game since Mike Brown took over the team, dropping them to 0-2 in the post-season during the Marvin Lewis era.
The last time Cincinnati won a playoff game, President Obama was in law school. At this rate, his daughters might be there by the time the Bengals win another one.
There is always the off-season for Bengal fans, however. This is the time when the team drafts guys with names like Ki-Jana, Akili, and Odell, place the franchise tag on Justin Smith and Shayne Graham while letting Eric Steinbach and TJ Houshmandzadeh sign with new teams; and make what seems like a franchise-changing-trade for Shaun Rogers only to realize they messed up the paperwork.
Rogers, now with division-rival Cleveland, has blocked multiple kicks and PATs against the Bengals since, likely saving Graham the embarrassment of just flat-out missing the kicks.
To put it mildly, the Bengals haven’t made the best moves during the off-season.
After coming off of back-to-back seasons with over 100 catches, Houshmandzadeh left for Seattle last season, and Laveranues Coles was signed to replace him for $2 million less over four years.
Coles was a disappointment. This lead Bengal fans to wonder if his hands were made of concrete during the regular season and playoffs. He fumbled during the Bengals' opening drive in the playoffs, killing the moment and electricity felt throughout Paul Brown Stadium.
In 2008, the Bengals made a splash by signing defensive end Antwan Odom from Tennessee. Odom became the Bengals' highest paid, defensive free agent in franchise history by signing a 5 year, $29.5 million deal. In his first season, Odom played 12 disappointing games before suffering a season-ending injury.
In 2009, Odom was on record pace, earning AFC Defensive Player of the Month honors and sacking Green Bay Quarterback Aaron Rodgers a franchise record five times in week two. Over the next four weeks, Odom accumulated one sack, but did draw multiple double teams before rupturing his Achilles tendon in week six against Houston.
Now before this gets too negative, keep in mind the positive.
The Bengals have done a nice job of dumpster-digging over the last few years, picking up guys like Cedric Benson, Dhani Jones, Chris Crocker, Tank Johnson, Roy Williams, and Larry Johnson off the street.
Benson and Jones contributed greatly in the Bengals' 2009 playoff-run, while the rest of the aforementioned signees played their respective roles throughout the season.
Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer, who signed a three-year contract extension last month, was great in motivating these players, constantly reminding them that they were all cast-offs who no one else wanted. While Zimmer’s motivation worked this season, Benson is likely the only long-term answer for the Bengals, as the rest of the players are on the backside of their careers.
The one man the Bengals need to acquire this off-season is the same one they needed last season, and for many seasons before that.
This man, for whatever reason, Mike Brown refuses to sign.
The man has had billboards calling for him in Cincinnati.
The Bengals have a guy who is only in the football business because his father is one of the most important men to ever be involved with the game. A guy who is more concerned about giving second chances and being everyone’s friend, than he is with getting top talent and being a respectable owner.
As Brown’s most famous employee would say, “Child, please.”
Maybe a G.M. isn’t the problem in Cincinnati. Maybe Brown has just had that bad of luck over the last 18 seasons. And maybe Corey Dillon and Carl Pickens were wrong, and Brown knows exactly what he’s doing. Until the Bengals have an off-season, however, in which they don’t miss out on an All-Pro player because they can’t handle paperwork, or place the franchise tag on a kicker and let one of the best slot receivers in the game walk away, Bengal Nation will continue to ask for someone else to be in charge of personnel decisions, and rightfully so.