Having observed the Bengals since their inception in 1968 - really from the time of their announcement in 1967, I have for a long time answered griping about coaches and players with the thought that these characters come and go but there are two constants with the team: ownership and where they play. Ownership issues have been rather obvious, but it has always at least seemed obvious to me that the overall personality of the Bengals has reflected the 'personality' of Cincinnati in a rather unflattering way.
My observation has been that, regardless of what specific energy the personnel brought in to run and staff a team bring to the task, the fact that a given team exists within a defined local area and the players, et al live in that environment imparts a certain character to the organization. This can be good for the on-field results, and it can be bad. Examples for me would be the effect of distractions in a place like New York, the general negativity of the Philadelphia scene, the blue collar outlook of Pittsburgh, etc.
In the case of the Bengals, there has always been a middling, come-up-short, also-ran character to the team, regardless of the players on the roster, the head-coach, or even which of the Browns was the principal owner. The Bengals have had a reputation, publicly observed as early as Jack Tatum's autobiography and as late as Terrell Sugg's comments on the sideline aired on Inside the NFL, of being "soft". Different editions of the Bengals have enjoyed different levels of success in operating against this identity, but in the end they end up falling prey to some kind of hapless and utterly ignominious collapse.
At their best, the most storied versions of the team, under the most illustrious of coaches, have nonetheless quickly regressed into the familiar futile mediocrity of Bengaldom. At their worst, that mediocrity has given way to chronic and abject piss-poorness. Obviously, most of that chronic piss-poorness had a lot to do with the first constant, Mike Brown's ownership, but I have observed a consistency of character in good times and bad that transcends both the Paul and Mike Brown phases of ownership and is quite consistent with the general mood and culture of Cincinnati.
I finally decided to see if I found anyone else on the Net that shared my observation regarding the organizational personality of NFL teams reflecting the atmosphere and culture of their respective cities and I found this article by ex-NFL player, Ryan Riddle submitted to Bleacher Report.
While I definitely think that the general character of NFL towns has a marked effect on the character of the teams that play in them, I don't think that the negatives guarantee failure any more than the positives guarantee success. What I do think is that a shrewd, coach, GM, etc. would do well to understand the link and harness those aspects of the local environment that are conducive to establishing a winning culture within the locker-room while remaining vigilant against the negative aspects taking over the mindset of the team. To a large extent I think that this is what Paul Brown did, obtaining relative success with what was often a very limited pool of talent.
Some of the stick-in-the-mud, prosaic conservatism of Cincinnati is useful in crafting a disciplined, business-like, professional atmosphere. Some of the golly-gee-wow, self-congratulatory, in love with itself conservatism of Cincinnati tends to work in the opposite direction. The two Superbowl teams enjoyed the benefit of having played so poorly in prior years that the players had become pariahs around town and the they circled the wagons and sought to prove themselves the NFL Bengals more than the Cincinnati Bengals with an us-versus the world chip on the shoulder. The bandwagon had to catch up with them. I really feel that the leadership team that takes the Bengals to a Superbowl victory will be the one that knows how to harness that energy in good times as well as the bad. That's not unique to Cincinnati, but it is more an issue here than it is in the small handful of really strong NFL towns.