OK.... if you expected us to beat Peyton Manning with a prior lifetime record against him of 0-7, what was your rationale for this being a time of change? Was it the 3-game losing streak and our 3-4 record, or Denver's 4-3 record with Manning looking to be back up on his game? Was it Denver GM John Elway's 5-0 record when going against the Bengals? Was it Marv Lewis' superlative field presence? Or maybe you thought we were due?
For a while, though, the Bengals played as if they thought they could win. But when it really came to "winning time," midnight struck once again for the lovable losers. And we do love those Bengals and their mountains of excuses. But today, I'm gonna just say that we're losers -- short-term, intermediate-term, long-term. We're losers for the Mike Brown era, the Marv Lewis era, for the playoffs, on the road, at home, whatever. Can it ever change? At this point I wouldn't hold your breath with such a hope. It seems that Mike Brown is gonna live a long, long time.
So how about some football talk?
PRIOR 5 OVERRIDING THEMES
1. Where is this wreck headed? -- About 40-50 % of sportswriters had the Bengals in the playoffs this year, and it doesn't look like we'll be able to escape a top 8-10 draft pick. Can't you hear it now? We'll have the 9th, 38th and 41st picks (numbers generated by a pure guess of us finishing with the 9th worst record and the Raiders with the 6th worst). Looking at the specifics once again, we're now 3-5 with the remaining schedule of: Home -- NYG, Oak, Dall, Balt; Away -- KC, SD, Phi, Pitt. What happens late in the typical Bengals bad seasons is that they beat a few teams that have already quit and/or are playing backups to make determinations for next year's roster. Right now I'd rate as as favorites vs. KC; even vs. Oak; slight underdogs vs. Philly, Dallas & SD; and strong underdogs against NYG, Pitt & Balt. From that mess of games I'll guess that we'll end up 6-10. Over the last 3 years that record has put teams drafting between 7th and 13th. 5 wins has put teams drafting 5th to 8th; 4 wins at 2nd to 5th. So every win we have will drop our draft order 2-3 slots next spring. As for coaching, we're stuck with Marv Lewis for 2 more years (unless Mike Brown promotes him to GM). It doesn't look like the interview train will be looking at Zimmer or Gruden for now. UFAs-to-be (I think) are: QB Bruce Gradowski, RB Bernard Scott, WR Brandon Tate, OT Andre Smith, OC Jeff Faine, DE Michael Johnson, LB Manny Lawson, LB Rey Maualuga, LB Dan Skuta, S Chris Crocker & P Kevin Huber. Maybe I missed a few. My point here is "Turn out the lights, the party's over."
2. Personnel Problems -- Seems like something different each week. But consistently we look week at RB, #2 WR, LB and Safety.
3. Why No Real Changes? -- My biggest complaint is that you MUST change things when what you're doing is not working and time is running out. Putting Brian Leonard in for The Law Firm at RB isn't what I'd call a monster change.
4. What is the Common Denominator? -- Although it's tough to put a finger on "that one thing" that could change things, I'm going with leadership. When your head coach has to call out the QB and MLB publicly to show more leadership, you're already in deep trouble. The problem with this on offense is that most great QBs maintain a very even keel over the course of a game, and Dalton already appears to me to be too emotional at times. And Maualuga appears to be too flat almost all the time. But what about Marv Lewis himself? His sideline presence is terrible. His decision making is terrible. He doesn't show the kind of leadership that is making a difference here, and in 2012 he has totally whiffed on what was supposed to be a playoff contender.
5. Offensive Problems -- As I see it, the issue all starts with the inability to run the ball consistently. There are three issues here: stale play calling, lack of dynamic RB & inconsistent OL play. If you're gonna run on 1st down, you really need to get 4-5 yards to create second down advantage. Without a dynamic RB, we're getting 2-3 yards usually on 1st down rushes. Once we get to 2nd and long, we need to have enough deep passing threat that DBs cannot sit on the intermediate stuff. Three problems here: lack of #2 WR who can get separation; lack of experience in our QB; and lack of deeper arm strength in our QB. Finally, 3rd-and-longer (as this roll of plays often goes) we have issues in that the OL is having trouble on both ends as well as at OC; Dalton has trouble standing in the pocket due to lack of optimal height; and roll outs are limited because Dalton's foot speed is marginal. So what works here is only the mixed run and short passing of a traditional west coast offense. What we're missing from that is a dynamic RB, a RB who catches passes, a #2 WR and a TE who is more consistent (despite the fact that Gresham had a good game statistically today).
NEW THEMES TO CONSIDER
* Guys Who Looked Good Today:
- Emmanuel Lamur --> did a great job off the Practice Squad; needs to keep getting snaps
- Mohammed Sanu --> nice deep look-in catch; but the 3rd-and-22 screen pass to him was a real joke of a call
- Gresham --> still does not run with "authority" but did get quite a bit of YAC
* Don't Be Confused:
- Maualuga --> played a bit better at times but still isn't the guy who will anchor the D
- Terence Newman --> 2 INTs gets you a gold medal, right? Newman also gave up a lot of catches and yardage going against the Bronco #2 WR
- Carlos Dunlap --> got some pressure but no sacks -- speaking of which, what happened to our million dollar pass rush?
- Manny Lawson --> just what exactly does this guy do on D?
- Jeff Faine --> at this point is keeping his roster spot based on his relationship with Gruden and the fact that Mikey won't eat a veteran contract
- The Law Firm --> good short yardage and goal line RB, but not a feature back
- Dalton --> has a long way to go; might not get a lot of good help with this WR roster
* It's Always Something in Cincy --> lots of excuses why we lose; funny... never heard Pittsburgh whining when they're playing without several starters. Just Win Baby! Maybe Al Davis wasn't as crazy as we thought?