For me, this is a bitter time of the year. Not cold. Bitter.
I am bitter because every year at this time I have to sit and watch other teams’ fans revel in the California or Florida sun, partying all week, waiting for their teams to play in the Big Game. I want to be them and that makes me bitter. Very bitter. And then, to rub salt into my emotional wounds, replays of the Bengals’ two Super Bowl appearances seem to be running 24-7. I still can’t believe Lewis Billups dropped that interception.
As everyone knows, this year the Bengals finished 32nd in the NFL in points per game and yards per game. But not to worry, yesterday, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Marvin Lewis blamed the players’ eroding discipline for the team’s poor offensive performance in 2008. I have got to hand it to Coach Lewis. He has got it all figured out.
While I agree that more discipline is needed and the players have certainly earned the right to enjoy a “Junction Boys”-type training camp next Summer, the Bengals have to upgrade the O-line if they want to improve from finishing the regular season ranked 30th in passing yards and 29th in rushing yards. The current group just didn’t get it done.
I saw it reported this week that the Bengal coaches were enamored with several defensive players at the Senior Bowl and several of the articles hinted that they may use their first round pick on a defensive player. Honestly, if I don’t see Andre Smith, Michael Oher, Eugene Monroe or some other massive offensive lineman with a Bengals ball cap on his head on draft day, I will be astounded. But then again, I have been surprised before (I was blown away by the Jerome Simpson pick last year – that guy could be Bart Simpson and I wouldn’t know the difference because he played so little this year).
In addition, the list of free agents has some interesting names that may be able to add some veteran leadership. For example, I don’t care if 13-year vet Jon Runyan can play anymore, that guy is a mean and nasty presence on an O-line. We need these guys to be haters, not fat and happy (see Big Willie in his last season as a Bengal or this year in camp). Other free agent linemen include OT Jordan Gross from Carolina, OT Marvel Smith of Pittsburgh, OT Mark Tauscher from Green Bay, C Matt Birk from Minnesota, C Jeff Saturday from Indianapolis, OT Tra Thomas from Philadelphia, OG Jahri Evans from New Orleans, OG Mike Goff from San Diego, C Jason Brown from Baltimore and others. All of these guys have been around. They know how to play and, most of them know how to win. The Bengals desperately need leadership. Coaches can instill discipline but teams need leaders to enforce it on the field and in the locker room.
A final note on the O-line. My 14-year-old son said last week that he wants the Bengals to draft or sign a center. He said he is tired of seeing Eric Ghiaciuc get blown off the ball and if he has to watch Eric Ghiaciuc start one more game at center, he won’t watch anymore. Hearing this, I was proud. Whether he is being too critical of Ghiaciuc or not, he is now officially one of us – the poor, the suffering, the Bengal fan.
I must conclude as I need to round up the family to watch old Super Bowl highlights. “See kids, the Bengals almost won it all…twice.”
It is, indeed, a bitter time of the year.