Chad Ochocinco's Long, Strange Trip: A Troubled Cincinnati Bengal Gone Wrong

John DurstCorrespondent IJanuary 28, 2011

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 21:  Chad Ochocinco #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals watches the final minute of the Bengals 49-31 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Paul Brown Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The latest headline involving Chad Ochocinco has him stooping to a new low. Chad has challenged Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis to a "cage match" after Lewis responded to Johnson openly telling media outlets and his reality TV audience that he wanted to play for the Patriots by saying that Bill Belichick is "smarter than that."

Ocho fired back by not only tweeting the cage match scenario, but in an interview with ESPN over the phone went as far as to reaffirm his displeasure with the coach by saying, "It's time to fight, then play." This comes after Chad and new teammate and reality TV costar Terrell Owns both said they would like to play for the Jets on their show. What a long, strange trip it's been for Chad...

Not so long ago, there was a Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver by the name of Chad Johnson who was a fun loving and extremely talented football player on the fast track to NFL elitism. However, at some point in the last few years, that superstar receiver was replaced by his frustrated, disgruntled "evil twin" named Chad Ochocinco.

Chad has gone from being viewed as an electrifying, entertaining Pro Bowl-caliber WR to an angry underachieving reality TV star gone bad. This once beloved player has fallen from grace hard, and he seems to always have someone other than himself to blame for his damaged reputation.

From 2003 through 2007, the player then known as Chad Johnson never missed a game. He also racked up no less than 1,274 yards from scrimmage in any of those years. Chad Johnson went to multiple Pro Bowls and averaged just over 92 catches per season for those five years.

Chad was also fined a few times by the league for excessive celebrations after TDs, but it seemed to be all in good fun for the young wideout. No matter what happened Monday through Saturday, Chad showed up with his game face on every Sunday and rarely disappointed his fans with his talent, class and lighthearted sense of humor.

Then a commercial ran on the NFL Network in which Chad Johnson was referred to as "Ocho Cinco," a play on his No. 85 jersey. After that, the networks began calling him Ocho, and Chad took a liking to the name, embracing it as a full on nickname.

But after the 2007 season, Chad Johnson took the nickname one step further and legally changed his name to Chad Ochocinco.

It's unclear just why he made the name change official. Some speculated that is was a ploy to sell more jerseys, while others said it was his own way to thumb his nose at the league after they fined him for wearing an Ochocinco name plate on the back of his jersey during a Bengals game as a joke. Still others just chalked it up to wide receiver diva-ism.

Whatever the reason was for the change in name, it was only a symptom of the change in the wider receiver's attitude. Since the name change, Chad Ochocinco has become a bit of a problem in the Bengals camp.

From 2008 to 2010, Chad's numbers have suffered in a big way. Since '08, Chad has just under six TD catches per season, has gone over 850 yards for a season only once, and has waged open war on the Bengals organization as well as head coach Marvin Lewis. He also has given up smiling on the sideline this past season.

The once spunky and once celebrated receiver's reputation has taken a huge hit after the 2010 season, and he's now coming off as just another over-privileged prima donna with an 80-something on his back. Chad has now come out publicly and said that he is going to change his last name back to Johnson, which is what he went by when he was an upstanding and productive member of the NFL community.

Hopefully for Ocho-Johnson this "rebirth" in name translates to a rejuvenation on the field in his new stomping ground, as it now appears that his time in Cincinnati may be coming to an end. I for one just hope to see Chad return to his old self on and off the field. I'm hoping we get the old Chad Johnson back.

After all: a mind is a terrible thing to waste, but so is a good pair of hands.