There's never a dull moment with the CIncinnati Bengals is there? SInce their season has come to a close, there's been a number of newsworthy items that have struck the Bengals.
The current ongoing story is that of Mike Zimmer's possible departure to a number of different teams for their head coaching vacancies. First the Dolphins were interested, but now are not; now we have the Buccaneers and Colts knocking on Zimmer's door for his services. I still think that he ends up missing out on another head coaching gig, but it wouldn't surprise me if he leaves for the Colts.
Then there's the recent legal news surrounding the Bengals. The last few exasperating days surrounding the legal issues of two Bengals players have brought to light the ongoing pattern surrounding this team's philosophy on troubled players.
To be fair to both Adam Jones and Jerome Simpson, their recent legal troubles are from old charges, not new ones. In both cases, we Bengals fans have just been waiting for the other shoe to drop as we've held our collective breath all season to see what happens in each case. What's come down the pike shouldn't be a surprise to any of us who follow the team.
Unfortunately to the team and its fans, there is an outside perspective that comes with these national headlines. Stop me if you've heard these before: "Same ol' Bungles", "Only the Bungles", or "Legal troubles? Of course he's a Bungle". The truth is that in the 2011 offseason the team began shedding the players from the roster and shied away from them in the draft. I think that most of us would attribute this to Marvin Lewis' supposed "new power" that he gained in his most recent contract negotiations. I'm sure that Lewis was tired of dealing with these types of players and the distractions that come with them.
Going into the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the Bengals signed "problem children" like Tank Johnson, Bernard Scott, Adam Jones, Cedric Benson, Terrell Owens, Larry Johnson, and Carlos Dunlap. While all of these players contributed in one form or another, the image of Mike Brown "redeeming" troubled players off of the scrap heap was solidified since its inception in the mid-2000s. At this point in time, only Scott and Dunlap are under contract (and haven't had any legal issues since joining the team), while Benson and Jones have had legal run-ins. With the exception of re-signing Benson last season, the Bengals didn't look at any players with a checkered past in 2011.
We know the image that this team has because of bringing in these types of players. Now with Simpson and Jones set to be free agents and facing possible legal ramifications and/or NFL suspensions, the question arises about if they should return to Cincinnati in 2012. If you read the comments in the recent Cincy Jungle writeup about his legal situation, you'll see my position about Simpson through an exchange with commenters "AMAS85" and the "The_Black_Stripes". I won't go into how I feel on marijuana and the legal and political views associated with it, but the fact remains that Simpson broke the law (in a very unintelligent way) and he now faces possible jail time and, according to Geoff Hobson of bengals.com, a possible four-game suspension from the NFL.
Given these possible scenarios of Simpson missing time because of this indictment, coupled with his inconsistency on the field, would you really want him back on the Bengals? Given the reports we've read, it sounds like Simpson may not face jail time, if he "cooperates" with authorities. He may not even get a suspension from Commissioner Roger Goodell since it's his first offense. Even if this best case scenario plays out this way, I still wouldn't like to see him return to the Bengals in 2012 and beyond. He's incredibly athletic and flashed with some big plays this season, but another wide receiver that doesn't have legal problems hanging over his head could replace him and put up comparable numbers next season (50 catches, 725 yards, 4 touchdowns). Furthermore, if the Bengals re-sign Simpson and to a lesser extent, Jones, they would just be perpetuating the image of the franchise being one that is a safe house for the NFL's bad boys. If Lewis really gained leverage in his last contract extension that we think he did, then Simpson won't be back.
Going into the 2011 season, expectations for the Bengals were very low. Commenter "Craig Da Dread" wrote a FanPost back in August asking if the Bengals could surprise the nation. At the time, this FanPost seemed to be the typical optimistic piece from a fan trying to look on the bright side after a tumultuous offseason for the Bengals. Reading over this FanPost, there is actually some really ominous words in it:
Now that being said I can understand some of the non mention of our Bengals or what they have done in free agency not to mention Aj Green, everyone was high on this kid , and now that the Bengals have him not a word. I feel this season can be a surprise season in ways , there is a defense returning after the loss of J Joe that really hurts, but we have a movement of young linemen that are poised to cause havoc, we have Rey moving to his natural position,playing his previous he is aware of what and where the other backers are supposed to be. Looking at the front seven on paper looks exciting for sure!
The defensive linemen was indeed a bright spot this year and not many of us would have realized it. Seeing as how the team was primarily bringing back old faces on this line, it seemed unlikely that they would have so many contributors. The fact is that the Bengals used a solid rotation of players across their defensive line to be one of the top five teams in sacks this season.
In this FanPost, there were the "naysayers" including commenters "Occams_Tiger_Teeth" and "Collards" playing the cynical Bengals fans. Not that they can be blamed--the contributors here at Cincy Jungle (including myself) figured that they'd be somewhere in the 6-7 win range in 2011. The fact remains that this season was an astounding surprise with all that they had to overcome this offseason.
The Bengals 2012 opponents list was recently released and I'll take a very early stab at how I think they'll finish. They play the AFC West (at San Diego, at Kansas City, host Denver, host Oakland), as well as the NFC East (at Philadelphia, at Washington, host New York Giants, host Dallas) and of course the rest of the AFC North. Sprinkle in the Dolphins and Jaguars and this schedule doesn't look that much more daunting than that of 2011.
First, I predict that the Bengals will get two Primetime games this season--one Monday night against the Raiders and a late-season NFL Network-televised game against Dallas. The games against the Giants, Eagles, Steelers and Chargers are also possibilities.
Without knowing what they will do in free agency and the draft yet, I think that the Bengals replicate their 2011 record and go 9-7 again. I predict wins against Kansas City, Denver, Oakland, Washington, Miami, Jacksonville, Cleveland (twice), Baltimore. I think the losses will come against San Diego, Pittsburgh (twice), Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia and Dallas.
This will definitely change throughout the course of the year depending on the draft, free agent acquisitions and injuries of the Bengals and their opponents, but right now this is how I see it.
Send me an email with a question at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet me @CUIBengalsFan and I'll answer them on this mailbag series. In the meantime, keep commenting on our Cincy Jungle boards!