We have covered how various national media outlets and draftniks proclaimed the Bengals as winners of the 2012 NFL Draft last weekend in numerous posts here at Cincy Jungle. While Sports Illustrated's Damon Hack agrees that the Bengals did a fantastic job last weekend, he examines the team's great haul as more of a big-picture turnaround to the franchise.
While supplying a lot of great quotes from head coach Marvin Lewis and a backdrop stemming back to the horrible 2010 season, Hack provides a great overall read for Bengals fans. He attributes the Bengals' recent "renaissance", as he puts it, to the steps that have been taken since Lewis signed his new contract extension back in early 2011.
Hack first points to the 2011 draft, where the Bengals selected two new faces of the franchise in wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton. Of Dalton, Hack recounts a story of Lewis' first encounter with the quarterback:
Lewis' North squad featured quarterbacks Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick and Ricky Stanzi. On the South sideline stood quarterbacks Christian Ponder, Greg McElroy and a redhead from TCU named Andy Dalton.
"A week later, I'm home walking by the TV and I see this kid on one of the morning shows," Lewis said in an interview in his office last season. "I do a double take and they happened to put his name on the screen: 'Andy Dalton, TCU.'"
Dalton hadn't done much in the Senior Bowl -- he was 3 of 7 for 22 yards and was sacked twice - but Lewis was intrigued by his calm presence amid a peppering of questions during the interview. The more Lewis studied Dalton, the more he liked him.
Cincinnati selected him 35th overall in the 2011 draft.
"We really felt like he had the ability, but also the demeanor, that he could come in as a rookie and play," Lewis said.
The next sequence of events that helped charge the new-look Bengals were the trades of former franchise players in Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco. After all, Green and Dalton couldn't take their rightfully-earned places as the new franchise players without the old ones being shown the door. And, it was in those two trades that the Bengals landed two possible starters in Alabama cornerback, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Cal wide receiver, Marvin Jones in the 2012 draft. Hack recounts an interesting piece of the Palmer trade saga that paints him in a fairer light than most fans have given him credit for:
"When I talked to him [last] February I was convinced that he was content to retire," Lewis said. "That was good because my job was to get everyone in this building to understand he wasn't coming back and that we had to move forward. He said 'I care too much about you. You have to replace me.' So, to me, that was that."
With the addition of two new scouts, back-to-back-to-back solid drafts, and the willingness to trade (or at least not as steadfast in NOT trading) big-name players, there truly is a wind of change around Paul Brown Stadium. Marvin Lewis puts it best in Hack's piece:
"A new beginning at the same address," is what Lewis calls the revamped Bengals.
Indeed it is, Marvin.