The pigs are flying, right? Hell froze over? Maybe the Cincinnati Bengals secretly hired a general manager in which allows Mike Brown and family to take credit for, what we believe are, smart transactions. Either way, it's different.
Before setting the world on fire with a season-ending three-game winning streak -- their longest winning streak since week 12-14 in 2006 -- the Bengals were 1-11-1 after 13 games in 2008. Most of us contributed the failed season to Carson Palmer's injured elbow. That might not be totally fair. The defense gave up 25 points or more in half their games and recorded 100 yards rushing or more (as a team) three times in 13 games. It was so bad that during a stretch of games against the Steelers, Ravens and Colts, the Bengals were outscored by 80 points (16-96). Palmer wasn't playing, but neither were anyone else. Some will say that the offense was so terrible, that it destroyed our defense. In a lot of ways, it did. No matter how you look at it, if you use a word other than disaster, then you're optimism knows no bounds.
How bad is it, that once the season was over, we celebrated? After that, nothing seemed normal. After letting Eric Ghiaciuc, Stacy Andrews and T.J. Houshmandzadeh go to free agency, fans breathed a collective sigh mouthing the words, "oh no". Not because Ghiaciuc wasn't re-signed. But the Bengals weren't active, so people panicked. In time, that panic subsided once dollar figures became public. Still, we were quiet, and some couldn't ditch that nervous feeling.
Then the Bengals signed Laveranues Coles, which limited the sting losing Houshmandzadeh, who suddenly can't get over how many touchdowns he scored during Seattle's minicamp (where did that come from?). Cedric Benson came back and the Bengals released oft-injured Dexter Jackson and Chris Perry. We looked at available restricted free agent fullbacks, but nothing came of it.
Then the gun sounded, the light turned on and everything clicked.
The Bengals signed Tank Johnson, Roy Williams and drafted Rey Maualuga and Michael Johnson. Boom. Defense. They drafted Andre Smith, Jonathan Luigs and Chase Coffman. Boom. Running game, hopefully pass protection and another offensive threat -- from a tight end. They traded for a running back who was drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft with 3-4 guys that could be better than our incumbent fullback Daniel Coats.
I guess the question is this. Knowing what you know, on this date, how good is Cincinnati's off-season?