What can I say? I've always been a fan of Chad Ochocinco. Since his debut in 2001 (yes, that long ago), following his rise to prominence and the absolute comedy witnessing people's hysterical reactions anytime Chad celebrated just as he was becoming the more known flamboyant receiver he's become.
Chad is also the most productive wide receiver in franchise history, accumulating an already dominate record of yards receiving (10,268) and receptions (710). His 63 career touchdowns is tied with Carl Pickens for most in franchise history. Six Pro Bowls and a two-time First-Team All-Pro, Chad averaged 92 receptions, 1,374 yards receiving through a five-year span from 2003 through 2007, leading the NFL with 1,369 yards receiving in 2006. During the same period, Ochocinco recorded 43 touchdowns. He was year in and year out, one of the league's top five wide receivers.
But it wasn't always a pleasant ride. Heading into the 2008 season, Chad went into a phase we called the Chad Johnson Character Suicide Campaign, demanding a trade to anyone that would listen through the media. We even created a section dedicated to Chad that you can still reminisce here. Eventually we got our boy back, after some conversations with Ray Lewis and Denzel Washington (yes, the same one) and the realization that Mike Brown is really stubborn and won't have his team dictated by any player that's not a quarterback.
During the Bengals 2009 playoff run, Chad wasn't the prominent receiver he was in years past, mostly thanks to run-first philosophy and Chad inviting double team coverages. Even then, he was able to record over 1,000 yards receiving and nine touchdowns. That's fine production, but it's not the same production our spoiled minds are used to. We excused it, like we did with Palmer, saying that Andre Caldwell and Laveranues Coles were never threatening enough to reduce double team coverages with literally no tight end threat for safeties to be concerned over. This year, the Bengals picked up Batman and several rookies to help reduce the double team coverages on Chad.
As the story goes, Chad exploded onto the 2010 stage against the New England Patriots, recording 12 receptions for 159 yards receiving and a touchdown. The four games since the season opener, Chad has combined for 14 receptions for 159 yards and no touchdowns. Against the Buccaneers, Chad only accounted for 20 yards receiving, which is his lowest yardage total dating back to December 19, 2004, where he caught two passes for 10 yards.
Yet, it was one reception that Chad failed to haul in, leading to Carson Palmer's third interception and eventually the game loser, that suddenly has him determine to ditch the Ochocinco we've seen this year, for the old boy that trash talked and generally enjoyed playing football to a greater degree of confidence.
Just before heading out for the bye week vacation, Chad talked about changing.
"I basically lost the game. Everybody would say, ‘Well, the game is within four quarters.’ But that’s a time when a superstar is supposed to make that play, and the field-goal kicker comes on and kicks it and I miss it. That’s what I mean about the confidence. A confident Chad catches the ball 10 out of 10 (times).
"I haven’t been the Chad of old,” he said. "The Chad we’re all used to. The boisterous, sometimes little borderline cocky-arrogant. But that’s what everybody feeds off as a city and an organization."
“The panic button is going to get hit. You go into a hole at 2-4 and that’s tough,” The Ocho said. “Especially with the schedule we have, that’s tough. We’ve got Atlanta, then we’ve got Miami and it doesn’t get easier when you keep going down the schedule. You’ve got Indy, you’ve got Pittsburgh, oh my God, yeah. This is much needed, big time. Big time. So we’ll be fine, trust me. Trust me. Because once I start talking (bleep), it’s on.”
Let's hope that this team gets its damned swagger back. Chad, you're on.