Sunday marked a day where Bengals nation could walk away satisfied with a first -team result that saw the offense run two very nice drives complimented by special teams returns and a renewed kicking competition. Yet shortly into the afternoon news broke that the rumors were true and Antonio Bryant was released without much fan fare (nor the offer of an injury settlement).
The Bengals ownership has showed a new facet long believed abandoned after Paul Brown stopped directing the team day to day—aggressive recruiting. The offseason highlight was the signing of Antonio Bryant which showed the team's expected and longed for desire to win by aggressively pursuing talent outside of the organization on the open market.
Yet what was so promising at the outset, now in the lens of twenty-twenty hindsight seems like a very disorganized effort to ascertain the efficacy of the now former Bengal Antonio Bryant (statistically, Bryant will never have been a member of the Bengals).
The following is a review of the Antonio Bryant debacle:
- Bengals Scouting: What was the review of Bryant post-surgery? Bryant had two very good seasons: 2005 with the Cleveland Browns (sorry James Walker of ESPN.com, I disagree with you yet again) and 2008 with the Tampa Bay Bucs (a breakout year of 83 receptions, 1243 yards, 15 yards per reception average, and seven touchdowns). Yet 2009 found Bryant sub-par coming off of a prior knee surgery and in turn showed that Bryant could still produce but unsure by how much. Somehow Bryant came in with yet another knee surgery recently removed from his history and beat out TO (though it is this journalist's belief that this still had more to do with character issues than age).
- Bengals Medical Review: Did the Bengals review Bryant's latest MRI? Did the Bengals ask for another MRI? Did the Bengals send in their own sports orthopedists? This mystery about what the Bengals did pre-signing remains and lingers. Though it is assumed that the Bengals did not quite commit enough resources to medical examination, the organization has been mum on this subject. Peter King of SI.com reported that Bryant may be suffering from a "Chodral Defect" which is a complicated, long-term knee problem or better said by King, "The ailment refers to a complicated cartilage injury to the knee." Yet King goes on wonder the same way many Bengals faithful have, which is: "I just can't figure out why they blew it two years in a row on receivers no other teams were very interested in." Watch for a firing or subtle change to the medical staff for indications of what went wrong here (if anything).
- Bengals OTAs and Mini-Camp: If Bryant had already rushed back once too fast (at Tampa Bay) and now was clearly rushing back to fast again, why not continue the rehab assignment and wait until training camp? If the Bengals were so worried about what they were getting that they needed to see Bryant in action quickly, they should have signed TO with Bryant at that time (though likely it would have been much more expensive so the Bengals in some sense did save themselves here).
- Training Camp: Why did they let Bryant practice the first session of training camp? Of all the mistakes, this was the biggest as the Bengals most certainly could have put Bryant on the PUP list (physically unable to perform) for up to the first six weeks of the season without using up a roster space. By allowing Bryant that one little session, the Bengals forced themselves into making a rushed decision—even with the exciting other options that now make up the Bengals' receiving corp.
Mike Brown's renewed sense of aggression in building up the team during the offseason (along with better drafting strategy) is a welcome and invigorating sight. This is a sign of ownership maturity. The next lesson (which we hope was learned from the Bryant situation) is: aggression with reckless abandon maybe better than before but is still very much unnecessary and could be equally damaging. Unfortunately, nobody is quite certain what was learned as for the second year in a row, the Bengals' ownership has made another disastrous mistake with even more recklessness than the Coles situation. Now Bryant and agent want his first-year salary and will make that case in filing an injury grievance.
(Photography courtesy of The Cincinnati Enquirer)