All four AFC North teams are now officially in the offseason. The Bengals, Steelers and Ravens all three went to the post season. The Bengals and Steelers both lost in the wildcard round and the Ravens were defeated in the AFC Championship game. Now that the season is over for all four teams, ESPN AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley has been compiling the All-AFC North Team. For his coaching staff, he picked three Bengals, including owner and general manager Mike Brown.
For the head coach of the All-AFC North team, Hensley picked Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.
Marvin Lewis, Bengals. This selection is only surprising when you consider most didn't think Lewis would be coaching the team after last season. He turned the Bengals from a four-win team into a playoff one. Lewis did this by relying on a rookie quarterback and changing six starters -- all in a lockout season. He was named the Associated Press Coach of the Year in 2009, but this season was a more impressive coaching job.
I have to agree with this one. Considering his franchise quarterback quit on him at the end of the 2010 season and then when you factor in the lockout, it was astounding that Lewis was able to coach the young and largely inexperienced Bengals to a 9-7 record and a playoff berth.
Lewis was able to build a solid foundation on which to build a consistently winning team, which is something that Bengals fans haven't seen since the '80s.
For the offensive coordinator of the All-AFC North team, Hensley picked Bengals first-year coordinator Jay Gruden.
Jay Gruden, Bengals. You could say Gruden won this by default because he is the only offensive coordinator in the division who is guaranteed to return next season. But that would minimize the work he did with an offense that revolved around two rookies, quarterback Andy Dalton (who was a second-round pick) and A.J. Green. Under Gruden, Dalton became the only rookie in NFL history to throw for 20 or more touchdowns passes while winning eight or more games as a starting quarterback.
Like Lewis, there's no question that Gruden deserves this award. Not only did the Steelers and Ravens offenses struggle but the Bengals offense was surprisingly good considering a rookie quarterback, a rookie No. 1 wide receiver and the lack of a consistent running game. Gruden did so well that he was considered for more than one head coaching position in the league after being an offensive coordinator for just one season. Luckily for us, he turned them down.
And then we come to Mike Brown. He was listed as the All-AFC North Team's front-office executive.
Mike Brown, Bengals. Yes, you read it correctly. This was a year in which he made all the right moves after being known for making all of the wrong ones. It started with his hard-line stance with disgruntled quarterback Carson Palmer, which eventually led to getting first- and second-round picks out of the Raiders in a trade. He also listened to his coaches in drafting Dalton in the second round when he preferred Ryan Mallett. Brown topped it off with his "buy one, get one free" ticket promotion that led to a sellout in the regular-season finale and his decision to cut prices for 14,000 season tickets next season.
If it's fair for Bengals fans to rip on Mike Brown when he does something we don't like, we have to recognize him for things he does right and this season was full of things he did right. To me, it all comes down to Brown's decision to trade Carson Palmer to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round pick in 2012 and a second-round pick that could become a first-round pick in 2013. On top of that Brown, traded away Chad Ochocinco, who made little to no impact on the Patriots' team for some extra picks over the next couple years as well. And when you factor in the players that the Bengals have drafted over the last couple seasons, you have to really admire what he's done as the Bengals owner this year.
So, what are your thoughts on Hensley's picks?