Heading into this season, there was real and genuine excitement for Cincinnati Bengals football.
Coming off a 10-6 season in which they won the AFC North, it appeared that the Bengals were ready to take the next step. When they saw a somewhat questionable receiving core on paper, they added Terrell Owens (this, of course, after the Antonio Bryant fiasco, but that whole deal is for another article post).
It wasn't even just about the free agents they added. Tight end was a big weakness last year, so they drafted Jermaine Gresham. Combined with wide receiver Jordan Shipley coming in from Texas, we were all thrilled, because Palmer now had more targets, so no more excuses.
After a respectable, but somewhat sluggish 2-1 start where the team wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders, but still winning ball games, the bottom has fallen out, as Cincinnati has lost four in a row.
A 2-5 record at the midseason mark probably means no playoffs. Not with Pittsburgh (twice), Baltimore, Indianapolis, the New York Jets and New Orleans remaining on the schedule.
With that said, at what point do you start to think about the future?
If you ask me, it's somewhat a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" type of deal.
People might say that the current losing path helps in terms of eventual draft positioning, but I combat that with a few points:
First off, it's owed to us, the fans, that the team at least gives a professional effort. I hate the idea of "tanking." Additionally, I don't think you ever want to lose to your divisional rivals; losing to the Steelers, Browns and Ravens is never OK, under any circumstances.
Furthermore, with the crazy cash that these upper-echelon draft picks are asking for, it's sometimes not worth the headaches when they eventually hold out. (Case in point: Andre Smith.)
However, as one looks at the current roster, particularly at the offensive end, it seems pretty cut and dry that Terrell Owens won't be a part of the next good Cincinnati team to come along.
He was brought here to be a missing piece, and even though he's having a solid season, he may just be getting in the way at this point in terms of evaluating what you have in the cupboard going forward.
Not just him, though, but what about Chad Ochocinco? Or Cedric Benson?
Dare I even say, Carson Palmer?
I want to see more of Jordan Shipley, Jermaine Gresham and Bernard Scott. Perhaps even the disappointing Jerome Simpson.
Of course, weaving multiple pieces into the framework of the offense would require an offensive coordinator that has a clue how to use them, and a head coach that demands accountability.
For that matter, an owner who is committed to the product, and not hoping that the goodwill of the occasional good season holds over the fanbase in the disappointing 3-4 to come where he's still raking in the cash regardless.
When Mikey boy fills up his taxpayer-funded stadium, he wins. Us fans? We're the suckers.
His degree of futility isn't quite what it once was, but the Bengals still have no GM, a tiny front office and a team full of guys who look great on paper and fill out a stat sheet, but don't do the small things to win football games.
What a sad state of affairs to be writing a column like this in Week 9 of the NFL season, but at least we aren't the Dallas Cowboys, who are 1-6. Or the train wreck Vikings, who are 2-5.
At least Jerry Jones apologized for their effort put forth on Sunday vs. Jacksonville.
Where's our apology?
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