Is Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski on the hot seat?

This isn't a report based on any other factual reports that are related to the subject. This is merely speculation based on the team's poor passing performances, as well as items during the last offseason. This is speculation and debate and take it as such.

I'm of the school that you can only blame coaches and coordinators so much before you look at the players. Are they executing? Why so many false starts? What about that missed block on second-and-ten that put the Bengals offense in third-and-14? What about the missed call by Carson Palmer, who misread a presnap adjustment against defensive schemes?

At the same time, coordinators and coaches put their players in a position to win. And if the Bengals coaching staff isn't putting their players in a position to succeed, then it's time to change the mind set from the players back to coaches.

So the question is: Is Bob Bratkowski putting his offensive players in a position to succeed? Let's give credit where it's due. The Bengals offense ranked inside the top-ten between 2005 and 2007. In four seasons, between 2004 and 2007, the scoring offense ranked in the top-11. Blame Bratkowski all you want. But you have to give credit to a coach whose main purpose is to put his team in a position to succeed. And succeed they have.

Then the offense ranked dead last in scoring and total yardage last year. They were, quite simply, the worst offense in the NFL. Some called it an aberration of having over 20 guys on injured reserve and an injury that shelved Palmer in 12 games. And while injury is never excuse, I believed in this school of thought. If you replace enough players that could become a starting lineup of their own, then you're going to have issues. Excuse or not. That's just the reality of math. Lose 15 starters to injury, you're going to have lesser talent.

But I wonder now, if the Bengals offense doesn't start showing up, is Bratkowski done in Cincinnati?

Let's go back to March, when Joe Reedy reported the following:

After the offense finished last in the league for the first time, coach Marvin Lewis, Bratkowski and the rest of the offensive staff went through every play from last year and evaluated what succeeded and what didn't. From there they have started to rebuild the playbook, starting with pass protection schemes before moving to running plays and eventually all of the pass plays.

Throughout the process, Bratkowski and quarterback Carson Palmer have been in constant communication about what they would like to accomplish. Palmer is currently working out in California, but he has DVDs of the last six seasons. If Bratkowski wants him to look at something, Palmer can flip in the DVD and give his opinion about a play or scheme.

"In most of the cases I have been anticipating what he would say," Bratkowski said.

Now, at first glance, this seems harmless; like a couple of football loving guys trying to find new solutions. On the other hand, a conspiratorial fellow like me thinks that someone higher up basically gave Bratkowski one job. Fix this offense or else. And it appears, based on performance, that "or else" is closing in.

Maybe that's not far. As far as the team's rushing offense has progressed, the passing offense has regressed. Maybe it's the line. Maybe it's the receivers not getting open. Maybe it's calling back-to-back plays where Palmer throws passes behind the line of scrimmage with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first half against Minnesota when the Bengals were at their own 26-yard line.

When T.J. Houshmandzadeh left for Seattle, he chimed in on the Bengals saying:

“To me I don’t see the playbook as much of a problem as guys not getting the job done. Coach Lewis knows who to blame whether it is the players or a coach. The players go out and play but coaching is relating to the players. Most coaches know the X’s and O’s but they have to trust the players. Right now the trust and belief is not there,” Houshmandzadeh said.

Now, Houshmandzadeh is speaking about the 2008 offense that ranked dead last. But you have to ask, is there trust issues between the offensive coordinator and the players? OK, I'm being conspiratorial again. Sorry.

But let's go even further back, to a series of reports that surfaced in January. The Baltimore Sun wrote that Marvin Lewis expressed interest in Hue Jackson, now the Ravens quarterback coach and former Bengals wide receiver coach and former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator. In the end, everyone involved denied any of this, which ended up being labeled as rumor. Do I think that Lewis really reached out for Jackson? I make it a point not to believe in rumors, but I always believe that rumors are based on some truths.

So my question is this, if the Bengals offense, specifically the passing offense, doesn't improve soon, would Bratkowski take the fall this year? I purposely put the word would, because I know you guys. You'll instantly think should. Will Mike Brown fire Bratkowski if the passing offense doesn't improve?

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