It's finally happened, and make no mistake, the change worries me a little. Our fearless, foul-mouthed leader has left us for the luscious life of a head coaching gig. Congratulations Mike, but now that you are heading up another team's coaching staff, I can only hope for the least amount of success possible, just as I do for any other team that does not don the orange and black.
However, now that Mike Zimmer is gone, I'd like to revisit a feeling that I had earlier this year. When watching our team, I saw a good defense. Despite what the stats say, I did not see a great, overpowering defense. Admittedly, we were missing three valuable contributors in Geno Atkins, Leon Hall, and Emmanuel Lamur, but this defense's reputation seems to overshadow its actual performance. There were games when it rose to the occasion, such as the week when it stopped Touchdown Tom from continuing his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass, and holding the Chargers to 10 points in San Diego.
However, I'd like to consider the scoring ability of the teams we play, specifically AFC North teams since we play them six times a year. Here are the offensive ranks of our divisional opponents since 2008:
As you can see, only the Ravens have fielded an above-average offense over that time period, and there were still years where it was nothing special. The Steelers have been a couple of steps behind that, never even managing to crack the top 10 in points scored. And then you have the Browns... doing the sorts of things that we've all come to expect them to do.
It is hard to deny that a team's defensive statistics will benefit from playing these teams six times a year. For proof, look at Cleveland's defensive stats over that time. They ranked 16, 21, 13, 5, 19, and 23 over that same five year span, and we all know that there is not an abundance of talent up there, aside from the AJ Green kryptonite known as Joe Haden.
But let's not get too crazy. I know that Mike Zimmer is a fantastic defensive coordinator. I just feel that the AFC North may have bloated his résumé somewhat. If we were to play in the AFC West in some alternate dimension where the geography of the United States was substantially different, I wouldn't expect this defense to have the success it had over Zim's tenure.
Raise a drink for Mike tonight, relish the good times that he has brought us. But do no shed a tear for him, my fellow Bengals fans. His successor will have the same fortune of leading a supremely talented defense against AFC North opponents six times next year, as well as other offensive powerhouses such as the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers next year. Have hope that we may field an even more successful defense, as the possibility does exist.
***Hey Mr. Kirkendall, it's me again.***