As a die-hard Cowboys fan, the 2010 Cincinnati Bengals are quite the interesting case study.
Not only are they looking to build on the unexpected division-winning success from last year, but they are looking to do so by adding many of the same malcontents, hooligans, and rabble-rousers that single-handily allowed the 2008 Dallas Cowboys' season to devolve into absolute tomfoolery (yes I channeled the ghost of my long dead great aunt Agnes to write that last sentence).
Terrell Owens. Adam "Pacman" Jones. Tank Johnson. Roy L. Williams (I was tempted to put "the Roy Williams who sucks" here to differentiate, but then realized that both Roy Williams in the NFL are walking embodiments of the Antichrist in my book and the books of most Dallas Cowboys fans).
Regardless of whether or not this ludicrous re-creation of the 2008 Cowboys leads to the postseason success the embattled Cincinnati Bengals have been striving for since Kimo von Oelhoffen played the John Wilkes Booth to the Abraham Lincoln of Carson Palmer's ACL (too soon?), this potentially explosive team will undoubtedly lead to many potentially interesting headlines.
Here is my best guess on the 10 most likely headlines that the Dallas Cowboys of Cincinnatti will generate in 2010:
1. Adam "Pacman" Jones Suspended after Punching Owner Mike Brown in the Face
Who will lead the Bengals in receptions?
The Pacman Jones fiasco in Dallas came to quite the ignominious end. Jerry Jones, whose penchant for signing "high-risk-high-reward" players like Pacman, took every step possible to keep the much maligned defensive back out of trouble.
When I heard that Jerry had hired two "bodyguards" to keep Pacman out of trouble like Liz Lemon hired Grizz and Dotcom to keep an equally insane Tracey Jordan out of trouble on 30 Rock, I thought there was no way Pacman could do anything that would upset Roger Goodell or the team to the point of suspension.
However, proving that his in-person demeanor was nothing like that of the pleasant, yellow, pill-gobbling orb of his namesake, Pacman found a way around such seemingly impenetrable countermeasures:
By punching one of his TEAM-HIRED bodyguards in the face at a party.
I mean for you to have to give the Pac some credit for creativity on that one.
I literally cannot thing of another way Pacman could have gotten kicked off the team under those circumstances besides punching a team employee hired to keep him out of trouble in the face.
What should the 2010 Cincinnati Bengals learn to expect from this?
Never put anything past a Pacman Jones with a desire to act up. And I mean anything. Even punching your team owner in the face. Which is the only headline more ridiculous than punching your team-hired bodyguard whose only job is to keep you out of trouble in the face.
Warning to Bengals fans from somebody who has gone through this already: Pacman Jones makes Demitrius Underwood seem the picture of mental stability, and Demitrius Underwood was arrested in a drug-induced psychosis dressed as an indian throwing batteries at cars.
Enjoy the ride Ohio.
2. Goodell Enraged after Discovering Under-the-Table Wager Between Mauluga, Polamalu on Who Can Hit Reggie Bush the Hardest
By all accounts 2010 will be the season where former USC linebacker Rey Mauluga has his coming out party.
Rey-Rey followed up an absolutely beastly career as a middle linebacker at USC with a strong rookie campaign, recording 63 tackles and three forced fumbles.
While considering if Mauluga could take the AFC North crown for "Hardest Hitting Defender of Polynesian Decent" away from Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, I happened to notice that both the Bengals and the Steelers happen to play the New Orleans Saints this year, the Steelers on October 31st, and the Bengals on December 5th.
This also happens to be the same year revelations about Reggie Bush and his regrettable tendencies to accept illegal gifts in college have cratered Troy and Rey's alma mater's football program with the hardest-hitting NCAA sanctions since the SMU Death Sentence.
A wager between the two ferocious defenders on who could knock the gold cleats off of Kim Kardashian's ex the fastest is probably the least crazy possibility I've come up with in this entire article.
Good luck Reggie.
3. Roy Williams Ostracized From Team Events after Bowling Three Consecutive 0's at Bowling Outing
If I were a betting man, I would bet that Roy Williams bowls exactly like he plays football: throws the ball as hard as he possibly can because all he cares about is hitting the pins as hard as he possibly can, a strategy which could easily result in 90 consecutive gutter balls.
Cowboys fans know all about Roy Williams' famed "gutter balls" on the football field (see: Santana Moss, Monday Night Football, 2006, or anytime the Cowboys played the Giants and he tried to play man up on Jeremey Shockey).
Unfortunately, Bengals fans do too (see: Week 1 of last year, Brandon Stokley).
In the omnipresent quest for stories and information in this 24/7 news cycle we find ourselves embroiled in, I have seen much more mundane stories pop up on ESPN.com than one regarding Roy Williams' bowling maladies, so this headline wouldn't surprise me much easier.
I would say stick to football Roy, but you seem to struggle immensely on that front as well.
4. Marvin Lewis Unfazed by Bryant Jersey-Throwing Incident, or Anything Else That Has Ever Happened
In an attempt to upgrade the wide receiver position, the Bengals went out and signed another Dallas Cowboys cast-out: former Pittsburgh standout Antonio Bryant.
Bryant had mixed success in Dallas, but his talent was finally overshadowed by his off-filed demeanor. His final act as a Dallas Cowboy was throwing his sweaty practice jersey in the face of Bill Parcells as he walked off the field during preseason, a move that falls somewhere between kicking a polar bear in the groin and attempting to eskimo-kiss a great white shark on the "stupidest things you could ever possibly do" list.
What if he tried a similar stunt in Cincinnati?
For the life of me, I cannot remember the last time Marvin Lewis' face changed or showed any emotion whatsoever.
For a coach who has only made the playoffs twice in seven seasons at the helm, you would think that the occasional sign of inner turmoil or emotional stress would break through the unflappable facade Marvin Lewis wears every second of every year.
Not a chance.
Even if he did get smacked in the grill with a sweaty Antonio Bryant practice "penny" (man do I hate it when people call jerseys that), I firmly believe that Marvin would keep on truckin like nothing happened, probably resulting in a hilarious "its just business as usual" press conference that would cause Skip Bayless to die on air after his insides exploded with incredulity like a seagull who was just fed Alka-Seltzer by the second-grade version of Pacman Jones.
5. Tank Johnson Pulls a Gilbert Arenas on Ocho after Perceived Reality Show Slight
Remember that scene in Terminator two when John and Sarah Connor, accompanied by the current governor of California, travel to the desert to load up with weapons to take down Cyberdyne Systems?
After arriving at some random rest stop in the middle of the desert, Sarah Conor pulls the lid off the top of a gigantic underground room that is filled with every single possible gun imaginable.
That is how I envision the mind boggling arsenal the police found in Tank Johnson's basement in 2006, a discovery that led to his suspension from the league and ended his tenure with the Chicago Bears.
Can't you just see, after a blowout loss to the Ravens, Ocho or T.O. spouting off about the defense not holding up their end of the bargain on E! (or whatever god-forsaken channel these reality shows are on), only to show up the following day to see a stool placed in front of their locker with three guns on top of it and a note that says "Pick One"?
Except, unlike Gilbert Arenas, who placed three simple handguns on the stool, Tank would dig deep in his arsenal and leave behind a flame thrower, a rocket launcher, and the BFG 5000 from Doom II.
Not out of the realm of possibility in my opinion.
6. Matt Jones Kicked Off Team After Mis-Interpreting Order to "Go Run Some Lines"
Mean, below-the-belt, and completely uncalled for, and I fully expect to get punched in the face if I ever meet Matt Jones.
I laughed too hard after thinking of it to leave it off the list though.
7. Ochocinco and T.O. Hold Shirtless Press Conference in Palmer's Front Lawn After Failing to Get Off Line vs. Press Coverage for Five Consecutive Weeks
Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson (yes I'm going throwback) have accomplished a lot in their time in the NFL.
However, neither receiver is in the prime of their career by any stretch, and both are beginning to struggle with the same crucial aspect of being an NFL receiver: getting off the line in the face of physical press coverage.
T.O. really began to struggle with it in his final year with the Cowboys, and Ochocinco, who is much slighter than the freakish Owens, has always had a problem with it that seems to be getting worse with age.
I can completely envision a press conference held in Carson Palmer's front lawn, without asking Palmer permission first, where T.O. and Ocho answer a series of questions regarding their questionable production in the last few weeks while doing shirtless alternating sit ups to show the world they are still tough.
8. Tight End Jermaine Grisham Leaves Grade-School Level Note in Palmer's Locker to Gain Upper Edge in Competition for Quarterback's Attention
The Cincinnati Bengals haven't had a game-changing tight end for as long as I can possibly remember.
They seem to want to buck that trend this year by drafting the Oklahoma Sooner's beastly tight end Jermaine Gresham.
However, all the hullabaloo this year in Cincy is centered around the acquisitions of new, verbose wide receivers to compliment the already loquacious Chad Ochocinco.
Understandably, the potentially explosive Grishman will be fighting for the quarterbacks attention for the entire season.
Carson Palmer will no doubt be hearing pleas for the ball from all corners of the locker room this year.
A well placed "Do You Like Me?" note in Palmer's locker with a "Yes" box, a "No" box, and a "Maybe" box to check would be both classy and understated compared to uproar the QB will be dealing with from the rest of the receiving corps.
9. After Weeks of Anti-T.O. "Reports," Ed Werder Released From ESPN After "Inside Source" Discovered to be a "Guy Who Gave Owens A High Five From the Bleachers Once"
Despite my earlier jab on Owens' ability to get off of press coverage, by no means am I writing off Owens as completely ineffective or a waste of money.
Owens will have a lot to offer to the Bengals offense this year. However, where Owens goes, so go the reporters with "inside anonymous sources" that are always unnamed but always cited whenever a negative T.O. report is released.
During his final two years with the Cowboys, Ed Werder's constant citing of anonymous sources within the Cowboys organization for T.O. locker room stories was nothing short of infuriating.
Okay Ed, so you are reporting that Terrell Owens said he wants to drop Wade Phillips into a volcano in Hawaii. Who told you this? A "source?" Really? That's all you can give me?
That information is very different if it comes from Tony Romo or comes from a ball boy who won a radio contest to work a practice for a day. The problem is, when simply citing an unnamed "source" as they did in Dallas and will continue to do with every Owens-induced locker room problem in Cincy, that "source" could be anybody from the team owner to the janitor who vacuums the locker room.
Owens admittedly brought this upon himself with his behaviors in San Francisco and Philadelphia.
But unfortunately that has led every single reporter covering Owens to feel like they have the right to substantiate any anti-T.O. story by simply citing an anonymous "source" within the organization and leaving chaos to ensue.
It drove me crazy when T.O. was in Dallas, and it will drive you crazy too Bengals fans. Just hope it doesn't drive T.O. crazy, and you should be all good.
10. Cincinnati Defeats the Patriots in AFC Championship to Advance to First Superbowl since 1989
For all the crap I've given the Bengals in the preceding paragraphs, the fact remains that they do have the pieces in place to make a deep playoff run this year.
However, this is only if all the new, less-than-mentally-stable additions they have made don't explode in their face like those same additions did to the Cowboys in 2008.
The Bengals have a very strong defense that finished 4th in the league in yards allowed and 6th in the league in points allowed.
As mentioned earlier, Rey Mauluga is an absolute monster in the middle who will be taking another step forward and will form a formidable trio alongside Keith Rivers and the illustrious poet Dhani Jones.
The defensive line will also see the return of a very productive Antwan Odom, who missed a large portion of last season with an Achilles injury.
The Bengals also sport one of the most solid cornerback duos in the league in Leon Hall and Jonathon Joseph. If they can lock down the outside, they might even be able to overcome Roy Williams' coverage deficiencies and allow him to play closer to the line where he belongs.
And that's just on the defensive side.
If Cedric Benson and the Bengals large run-blocking O-line can reproduce the productivity from last season, thereby taking the pressure off of Carson Palmer and his tandem of talkative pass catchers, a clock-controlling strategy like the one offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski implemented last year could lead the Bengals deep into the post-season for the first time in a long time.
To make a long story short, things seem to be looking up in Cincy.
As long as Pacman can avoid punching the team owner in the face.