While the previous posts were a little exaggerated, I did go through a small grieving process when the Bengals lost to the Texans on Saturday. There probably wasn't a denial stage, but I was angry and I was sad. Depression is a little far fetched, but I was far from happy with the outcome of the game.
However, this is how I feel now and how I knew I'd feed regardless the outcome of the game: the 2011 season was nothing short of miraculous and the Bengals have a very bright future.
Heading into the offseason I reflect on what we just saw. I seriously doubt that there were many who seriously figured the Bengals would even make it into the playoffs, especially considering the terrible offseason they had. They came into the season with a rookie quarterback, rookie No. 1 receiver and a rookie offensive coordinator, and they were coming out of a lockout. There seemed to be no hope.
But the Bengals created hope. Time and time again, Andy Dalton proved to be a winner and A.J. Green showed us all why he was taken with the No. 4 overall pick. They went on a five-game winning streak, they played some of the NFL's toughest teams very closely and they took us all to the playoffs.
It wasn't just the players, it was the front office as well. For the first time in recent memory, I find myself approving of the majority of the moves Mike Brown and the front office made, from the draft, to free agency, to trading Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer, to selling out their stadium with ticket deals and lowering prices in 2012. They give me hope for the future as well. They, as well as the players, have set up this team with a good shot at sustained success in this league.
Having said all of that, there are obviously holes that need to be filled. The secondary is bad as is the offensive line. The running game needs a shot in the arm in the form of a new running back and Green needs a more consistant No. 2 receiver on the other side of the field. It says a lot on their behalf that they were able to succeed this season when you consider that this isn't a complete team yet, and it's exciting to think what they can do when they are complete.
With two first-round picks in 2012 and some extra money to throw around in free agency, the sky truly is the limit for this team. And for the first time in a long time, I'm confident that the team will make the right moves, not the wrong ones.
The Bengals lost in the playoffs in Houston, which was disappointing. However, this season they showed all of us that they can beat the teams that they should be able to beat, which is different than they used to be. Even the good Bengals teams would go out and beat Pittsburgh and then lose to the Rams or Seahawks on the road. The 2011 Bengals did what teams do when they start doing the right thing and I can personally guarantee you that the ball will start to bounce their way sooner rather than later.
I've always been proud to be a Bengals fan and that couldn't be more true now.