During last year's offseason in June, Bengals play-by-play voice and Local 12 Sports Director Brad Johansen reported that the Bengals were offering Benson a three-year contract extension between $16-20 million. A week later news surfaced that Benson was charged with assault during the Memorial Day weekend. That was the last we heard of any negotiation between the team and Benson.
Along with publicly being displeased, like the Emperor with an undercooked steak (hey, you do have lightening), Benson wasn't the focus of the offense like in 2009 (by saying the team lacked identity). Yet, his numbers across the board were mediocre. Sure, one could blame the changed offensive philosophy as a direct result of that change. Or maybe the offensive philosophy was forced to change after Benson's production was lower than it was in 2009.
His 1,111 yards rushing and seven touchdowns ranked 13th in the NFL. Nine running backs picked up more first downs than Benson and only Peyton Hillis fumbled the football more than Benson. Twice Benson rushed for 20 yards or more on a play, with 48 other players doing it more. Along with a mediocre 3.5 yard/rush average, Benson's 26-yard run against the Buffalo Bills ended up being the longest this season, yet the shorted long-run during any season in Benson's career. In five games, Benson failed to run the ball for 10 yards or more. In all honesty, his 2010 season compares somewhat like Rudi Johnson's 2006 season, where evidence began to surface that the running back was wearing down after a great campaign the year before.
No, no. He's not Rudi. Rudi actually had a better three-year stretch -- dude had 36 touchdowns between 2004-06.
As Jason pointed out in a Carlos Holmes article on Wednesday, Benson would love to return to Cincinnati.
"I would love to return to Cincinnati," Benson said. "I was able to find some success here and think I can find a lot more. Coming back wouldn’t be a bad thing for me. However, if things were to change I would embrace those changes as well. Whatever is coming my way I’m excited about it."
For one thing, Benson has to know that his 2010 performance badly hurt his finanical prosepcts in 2011, and knowing that the Bengals reportedly offered between $16-20 for over three seasons, the running back isn't likely to receive anything like that from another team. The Bengals are more likely to overpay him than he is to find a similar deal with a new team.
On the other hand, no amount of money will entice Cedric Benson to return if the Bengals re-sign offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski.
“There is a time for change and I think now is a pretty good time,” Benson said. “We found ourselves being very successful a year ago and kind of didn’t master the thing going into this year that made us successful the previous year. Somebody missed that somewhere.”
While Benson might be speaking on a personal level of having his production reduced due to a fanastism from the team to pass the football with Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, he just earned a fruit basket from Cincy Jungle for his position. On the other hand, what's working against Benson is that he didn't have the same production in 2010 that he did in 2009, in which the team was left with no choice other than to pass the football. It's a mix bag here.
In November, Benson was asked if the team had strayed too far from their roots of running the football.
“The only person who can answer that question is the one making those calls,” Benson said. “I would love to voice my opinion on that but it will get me nowhere. I’m above and beyond negative energy. It’s on the film and everybody sees it. You have to play the cards you are dealt. I’m only employee number 32 and have to be there. However, I think we’ll keep hitting our heads up against a brick wall if we stay blind to the facts.”
Benson would go on to simply say that the coaches, most like Bob Bratkowski, are not listening to the players.
"The biggest thing that wears on you (is) when you have a suggestion," Benson said. "When you feel things could be done a little better with a slight change somewhere (and) whether you say it or not, it’s not going to matter. They’re not going to change anything. That’s kind of the frustrating part. You preach about it being a team sport, but when it comes to feedback and stuff like that, it’s not appreciated.
"You've got to do what you’re told. That’s the frustrating part. You just got to try and find joy being in the National Footbal League and having this wonderful opportunity and play football."
How does a player go from that mindset to wanting to return? By getting rid of the problem. And that problem is Bob Bratkowski. And look no further than the Bengals loss to Tampa Bay as a reason the offensive coordinator should be fired. From the recap earlier this season.
Just after Tampa Bay went three-and-out with 3:24 left in the game and the Bengals leading 21-14, the beginning of the end kicked into gear. After back-to-back runs by Cedric Benson, Tampa Bay takes their final timeout with 2:28 left in the game. Jermaine Gresham is called for a false start and Carson Palmer is picked off at the 50-yard line on a really good play by Aqib Talib, who was burned on Terrell Owens' 43-yard touchdown reception earlier in the game. Buccaneers' quarterback Josh Freeman completes three of four passes for 50 yards, capped by a game-tying 20-yard touchdown pass to rookie Mike Williams.
That football should have never been thrown. Whether it's third-and-13 or third and a goddamn mile, if the Bengals run the football with 2:28 left in the game, they reach the two minute warning and punt. With less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay is forced to drive the length of the field to tie the game. And if they did that, fine. It's the defense's fault, but Tampa Bay would have been given no advantage from the offense because of a badly thrown ball into triple coverage, thanks to a play that should have never been called.
Due to an irrational choice to throw the football because the Bengals offensive coordinator has no awareness on what's happening on the field, Tampa Bay has the ball at midfield, with a much easier path to generate a touchdown, mostly because they were able to run THREE plays before the two minute warning. If the Bengals run the ball on third-and-13 with 2:28 left in the game and no time outs by the Buccaneers, those plays do not happen.
Say what you will about the defense having to do their jobs, but Bob Bratkowski lost this game because it was evident that he wasn't aware of the situation in the game. And yes, we believe that Carson Palmer should have taken a leadership role at that moment and checked into the run. As they say, it's better to ask for forgiveness and than permission. In the world of the Cincinnati Bengals, it's the only way to be successful.