Time for Bengals fans to grow up? And a look at the bye week

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at the bye week. Also, Johnson may have opened up a greater discussion that we haven't touched on yet... have we grow up as fans?

Hello, bye week. You can have the guest room. You're most welcome at our house.

Let's talk about what to expect.

The press will have access in the locker room with players on Tuesday, but the team closes shop until Monday morning. A true week of vacation. Players go home and relax, some go on vacation. Stories will permeate throughout the week with what players are doing -- not that our obsession with their personal lives is healthy or anything. Former Bengals defensive tackle John Thornton talked about bye weeks in 2011 on his now-defunct website, AllProBlogger.com.

"Players do many things during the bye week," Thornton wrote. "Most of the rookie players will go back to their colleges to attend games. Its a lot of fun going back to school when everyone knows you are in the NFL and now you have a little bit of money in your pocket.

"Veteran players will either take a short family trip, or a quick trip to Vegas(my trip of choice), or some guys just go hunting or something like that. Everyone just gets away for bit. Injured guys usually have to stay to get treatment. So the game before the bye week becomes very important. Marvin has tossed out the extra days off nugget before, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It all depends on the opponent. I remember we got the whole bye week off back in 2005 after beating the Ravens in Baltimore, and in 2006 we had to stay until Thursday after losing at home to the Patriots. You never know how it will shake out."

It's good that players come out of the bye week refreshed, but they've never played the first game after the bye particularly well. During the Marvin Lewis era, the Bengals are 3-6-1 during the first game following a bye.

Before The Bye Week After The Bye Week
2003 Buffalo Bills L, 16-22 Baltimore Ravens W, 34-26
2004 Pittsburgh Steelers L, 17-28 Cleveland Browns L, 17-34
2005 Baltimore Ravens W, 21-9 Indianapolis Colts L, 37-45
2006 New England Patriots L, 13-38 Tampa Bay Buccaneers L, 13-14
2007 New England Patriots L, 13-34 Kansas City Chiefs L, 20-27
2008 Jacksonville Jaguars W, 21-19 Philadelphia Eagles T, 13-13
2009 Chicago Bears W, 45-10 Baltimore Ravens W, 17-7
2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers L, 21-24 Atlanta Falcons L, 32-39
2011 Indianapolis Colts W, 27-17 Seattle Seahawks W, 34-12
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers L, 17-24 Denver Broncos L, 23-31
2013 Cleveland Browns W, 41-20 San Diego Chargers ?

We'll talk more about the bye week this week.

***

Have we failed to grow as fans?

"If you're not believing and being positive, leave," Johnson said while changing after the win. "We don't need you. Because that's what we're about around here -- staying focused, staying positive and keeping our energy going. Negativity breeds negativity, and we don't do that around here."

That's an honest answer from defensive end Michael Johnson, who replied to a question when Bengals fans vocalized their disappointment when Cincinnati's offense struggled in the first quarter. It generated predictable reaction, which is why Johnson was forced to repeat his perspective on Monday. And good for him for not back-tracking.

Which has me thinking -- is it us? Are we old dogs failing to mature like the team has?

Over the course of ten years, this franchise has undergone serious change from the migraine-inducing era of Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet and Dick LeBeau. We're not talking about a team with top-ten picks when our most enthusiastic moment in a given calendar year was spring, not autumn. Cincinnati is a threat every season now. No team circles Cincinnati as the "easy win" anymore. Every game is winnable. We've reached the point that we expect it.

The Bengals have reached the postseason in three of the past four years. Qualified for consecutive playoff berths for the first time since 1981, and they're on their way to making the postseason in three consecutive years for the first time in franchise history. For younger fans, you have no idea what this achievement feels like. Of course you want them to win a postseason game, win a Super Bowl and do all of the things that we're hoping for. So there's no need for the tiresome we're not happy until we're Super Bowl champions rebuttal. Enjoy the ride. The journey. That's 99 percent of why we're here, doing what we do every day. Because this is the NFL. It will humble you in a heartbeat.

Yet, as fans, we haven't changed at all. An interception occurs and we're predicting defeat. How many of you were concerned after Josh Gordon's 74-yard touchdown reduced Cincinnati's lead to 11 points in the third quarter, only to exhale 13 game-minutes later when Alex Smith caught a two-yard touchdown? Or fired off a negative prognostication after a poor play resulting in a radical perspective on a player's career based on nothing other than that one negative play.

Are we old dogs, out of our element, in uncharted lands, yet unwilling to change as the team had already done? Is it time for us to change, to grow, and stop breeding endless negativity born from our own insecurities from a Bengals era that no longer exists?

It's understandable for Johnson to say what he said and honestly, I have no problem that he's grown irritated by the booing. His honesty is a welcome perspective from the dull player interviews in today's NFL. Not only is Johnson becoming one of many leaders saturating this locker room (more on that later), his talent and production is begging the front office to sign him to a long-term deal. No, I'm begging them. You should be too.

At the same time, it's sports. People boo. They've been booing since Ancient Rome (and probably before that when Adam and Eve booed God's decision to banish them from Eden). And it'll happen when this era of hypersensitivity comes to merciful end. Yet, how could anyone not realize for whom or what or why said booing is happening? Perhaps it has something to do with a two-game losing streak, losing games in the standings with a richly talented offense requiring at least one quarter (sometimes a half) to get kick started. It's frustrating. These things aren't born out of thin-air. It's builds and builds until we, as sappy fans that must be heard, form an oval and shout cohesive displeasure. Thank god, "Boo" is all they hear.

On the other hand, I love the response that fans pay for player salaries. That may have been true in 1970. But not today. For example, if we average the ticket price at $60/seat for a seating capacity of 65,535, the ticket revenue nears $4 million. Exclude the visiting team's take (40 percent), and that number is reduced to something closer to $2.5 million and around $20 million over an eight-game home schedule. The combined number of base salaries for players (including dead money) is around $125 million this year. All of these numbers are approximate and doesn't include the expensive suites but the point is the same. Per Forbes.com, the Bengals revenue in 2012 was $250 million with an operating income of $37.3 million.

I'm alright with Johnson criticizing fans for booing. I'm alright with the actual booing. Both were speaking from the heart.

It could be worse.

"If you play offense like we did in the first three series, you're going to get booed," Whitworth said via ESPN. "I've been here when we were 0-8. So that ain't crap. That ain't booing. I can remember seeing No. 9 [Carson Palmer] jerseys getting thrown on the field ... on the back of our sideline. So I've been around it. That's Cincinnati. That's some of the nature here."

***

Mocking The Draft Has A Mock Draft

The SB Nation mock draft site released a mock draft on Monday and has the Cincinnati Bengals selecting Florida State linebacker Christian Jones at No. 26 overall. I can feel this but when you look at the team's structure in 2014, is linebacker a need?

Vontaze Burfict and Emmanuel Lamur are signed and won't be going anywhere. Rey Maualuga and James Harrison will enter the second year of their respective two-year contracts. There's four. We're still unsure with what Shaun Porter brings and I could see the team bringing Taylor Mays back after an impressive season as a hybrid player that played linebacker and defensive back. Vincent Rey will be on the free agent market if the team doesn't sign him to a tender prior to March. Trust me, they'll make the effort to bring him back.

This team is all about planning for the future. But they've also shifted drafting philosophies to a best player approach. Linebacker will sell me because there will be a lot of unknowns. On the other hand, when the team returns to camp in 2014 with injures being healed, it'll be stacked.

***

Paul Browns Stadium could have some action this weekend

Despite the Bengals having a bye week, Paul Brown Stadium might be the destination for a huge regional high school football game. Moeller and Colerain are scheduled for a playoff game at Mason High School this Saturday with a capacity of 7,000. Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune is asking the Ohio High School Athletic Association to play the Moeller and Colerain game at Paul Brown Stadium.

"The OHSAA and Hamilton County have enjoyed a good relationship over the years, including staging collaboratively the greatest single day football playoff doubleheader in 2001 that was attended by over 47,000 fans," he wrote. "I am a graduate alum of Colerain High School and my colleague commissioner Chris Monzel [the President of the Board] is a graduate alum of Moeller. Both schools have a rich and successful history of playoff competition. Both will each bring a fan base larger than the capacity of Mason’s stadium. As such, scheduling this regional playoff game at Mason will fail to afford a large number of local fans to opportunity to attend and cheer their team to victory."

Per Sharon Coolidge with the Cincinnati Enquirer, there are no events scheduled this weekend at Paul Brown Stadium and the Bengals are on a bye week. However, despite Hamilton County owning the stadium, the Bengals "have to sign off on any event that happens there." And most likely they will if OHSAA approves of the venue change.

***

Michael Johnson Opens Bye Week At Local School

Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson stopped at Amelia Middle school on Monday to talk with the kids.

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