The Sacrificial Lamb: Bob Bratkowski

Ding, dong, the witch is dead, the witch is dead, the witch is dead...

That song was chorused through the streets today all across the Bengals universe and beyond, as millions -- many not even Bengal fans -- agreed that the firing of Bob Bratkowski was a good thing. In all absolute honesty, I overheard two separate people on two separate occasions rejoice about the recent termination...on the bus, no less!

Apparently high-school kids, with the voices of megaphones, know more about football than Mike Brown does. They each shouted over their friends that the firing should have happened a long time ago and that Brian Billick should be the next offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. I couldn't disagree with any of it. The other time was the bus driver himself, eloquently opining about how the Bengals focused too much on Terrell Owens and had abandoned the run. It was as if he had been reading the blog. Today, I was proud of my city for knowing their football.

Of course, it doesn't take a rocket-ship maker to connect the dots that Brat equals awful equals losses. Babies know this! Some primates and maybe even a border-collie could quickly get the gist. Yet, like the high-schoolers said, it took way too long for numb-nuts to figure it out on his own, and Brat went on to blow the last three seasons. What's somehow comically pathetic, is that I don't think Mike Brown really wanted to fire him. For the first time perhaps ever, I think that Brown tossed his constituents a sacrificial lamb to appease them enough to renew their season-tickets for next year. In his heart, I think this was a financial decision rather than a football one. Like the small general-store his team is mocked as, he would prefer to keep the same employees working there until he dies, rather than wade through the constant interview process and the press-conferences and all of that getting-up-in-the-morning stuff. He had a mediocre coaching staff that he was comfortable with averaging seven wins a season. Why busy oneself when there's all of that golf to be played and fast food to eat?

Even furthering the idiocy, the "front-office" decided to wait until every other team made their coaching moves first so that the Bengals could have their choice of the leftovers. Hue Jackson landed a head-coaching job with Oakland -- not a bad gig if you can put up with nasty bouts of dementia telling you what to do -- but whether he could have been lured to Cincinnati to work with Marvin Lewis again will never be known because of the curious timing of Bratkowski's termination. Another curiosity is why the team waited to fire him until after he coached this year's draft prospects at the Senior Bowl. Wouldn't you want your new coach to get a feel of who they might want to draft?

Carson Palmer may have a lot to do with Brat's dismissal as well. The big quarterback took a practically militant stance against team ownership last week threatening to retire if he's not traded. It was rumored that Carson had some demands of change and it would not be at all far fetched to assume that Bratkowski's removal was on that list. There really isn't even an argument over who is more important to the organization between the quarterback and the offensive coordinator, so it seems almost impossible that Palmer's dissatisfaction was omitted from the decision-making process concerning Brat's career.

Gripes aside, though, he is gone. That alone is breath of fresh mountain-air and instills in me a morsel of hope to a franchise that seemed to be facing its rapture. Bratkowski had been such a burdensome anchor for so long that one almost wants to stretch out their shoulders after ridding such a plus-sized gorilla from their back. The new man will be immediately challenged with a living soap-opera of drama, and before he writes an X or an O on the dry-erase board, he will have to convince emotionally-ailing superstars that they will get what they think they deserve , but only if they attend off-season activities with the rest of the team. He will also have to deal with a publicly-vilified owner who is notoriously cheap and stubborn, and a severe lack of scouts to bring him quality new players to mold. All in all, it's the not the best job a coach is looking for, but it's work all the same and someone out there is certainly interested.

As for who that might be, chances are, they will likely have some kind of familiarity with the Bengals, will probably have to come cheap, and be someone that jives with Mike Brown's way of doing things. Sure, I'd like Billick too -- he and Marvin worked well together in Baltimore during their Super Bowl run -- but he doesn't fit the aforementioned requirements. That's why I predict that either Ken Zampese is promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, Turk Schonert is brought in from the outside to take the job, or some obscure person no one has really heard of shuffles into the spotlight. All three of these scenarios are consistent with the way the Bengals do business, so any diversion of these options would come as a surprise to me.

Regardless who is handed the keys to an adolescent offense complete with an identity crisis and prone to noisy outbursts, this particular hiring is more important than any other within the entire organization (outside of creating a general-manager position, of course). This new person will the play the lead part in the upcoming soap-opera scheduled this Fall, The Cincinnati Bengals And Their Mystifying Offense, or WTF???, as it's known to teenagers. Yes, this brave soul will certainly have his work cut out for him, but at least he has the luxury of succeeding a total failure. One truly can't do much worse. Good luck, newcomer; may your armor be thick and your play-calling sharp.

Mojokong—minutely happier times are these.

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