Coming off a surprising 9-7 season and a trip to the playoffs, Cincinnati has its sights set straight ahead. Way ahead. The players walk around the locker room with shirts that read "DNO." It means Destination: New Orleans, the site of this season's Super Bowl.
I have to say, of all the developments in Marvin Lewis over the past few years, this one says the most to me. It's not that he hasn't talked about a Super Bowl being the ultimate goal since the day he walked in the door. And it isn't even as if he's constantly acted like we were always a year or two away. he always said the right things in press conferences about what any football team's objective was, and I think he honestly believed it every time.
But every year Marvin has made a point of having training camp slogans put on shirts. I've always thought it was a bit corny, but the players seemed to like it. However, every other year it was something along the lines of "Do your job" or "Get to work" or "Bring your Shovel." Yes, Marvin is a blue collar coach and there is a lot of merit in treating your team like professionals and instilling a strong work ethic in them. But I have always said that, as respectable as that approach is, it will only get so much out of your players. Generally just enough to get them to, say, the first round of the playoffs and then bounced out. It will get them to some 8-8 seasons, always on the cups of real contention but never tipping over the peak.
This is different. This is a Marvin Lewis filling his young players with real ambition and confidence. Screw the shovel - go get a ring. You're not a construction worker, you're a championship caliber professional football player, dammit!
I've felt for a long time that Marvin's hard hat approach to player motivation was one of the key reasons we could never turn the corner. This is the first time it looks like he might have figured that out. I dont' want him to turn into Rex Ryan by any means - and I think there is roughly a 0% chance of that happening - but it's great to see him getting as excited as the fans are and letting the players get into it, too.