Once a Bengal, always a Bengal. At least that is the way it seems to work with Cris Collinsworth.Collinsworth played wide receiver for the Bengals from 1981-1988, appearing in three Pro Bowls. Collinsworth is a big fan of the direction that the Bengals seem to be headed in. He will get to see the Bengals in action on October 21st when he gets together with Al Michaels to call the Steelers at Bengals game for NBC Sunday Night Football. While Michaels has Cincinnati ties (Reds Play-by-Play man from 1971-73), Collinsworth will essentially be coming home again. The Bengals do not get to be on Sunday Night Football often, not having a home Sunday night game at all since NBC took over Sunday Night Football in 2006. Due to this, Collinsworth is not accustomed to being able to stay at home during the season. Needless to say, he is excited:
"We’re so excited about it for a couple of reasons," Cris told Bengals radio voice Dan Hoard. "One, I get a chance to stay home which is pretty rare, and two, just the fact that the Bengals were back in the playoffs and look like they have a very talented young team. We’re all kind of pumped up about seeing them on national television."
The NBC color analyst has recently spent some time studying the Bengals and quarterback Andy Dalton. Collinsworth does not understand where all the talk about Dalton having a weak arm came from:
"The big question mark about him was his arm strength and how he couldn’t throw the ball that far," said Collinsworth. "So I put on the playoff game from last year and about 10 plays into the tape, he throws a ball like 65 yards in the air. I replayed it because I was thinking that my math was wrong, but when I looked again it was 62 yards and he overthrew A.J. Green on a play over the top. So I was like, ‘Where does all that talk come from?’"
Dalton reminds Collinsworth of another former Bengal that wore no. 14:
"What he does really well is orchestrate the Jon Gruden-slash-Jay Gruden offense in a way that is pretty darn impressive," said Collinsworth. "Most rookies are not that accurate and not that good at making quick decisions. But he got the ball out of his hands and he looks like an NFL player when he’s on the field. And he adds that stabilizing force. I don’t think that I’ve ever even met him, but he seems like a rock-solid, Kenny Anderson kind of guy that you’re going to be able to count on. I don’t know if it was the fact that he wore #14 or not, but he really reminded me a lot of Kenny Anderson. He has the understanding that it’s his job not to give up the sack and I thought that he did a really good job of it."
Another reason for Collinsworth to be optimistic is the continuity that the Bengals have had with their coaches, especially at head coach:
"I’m a believer in Marvin first of all," Cris told Hoard. "I think the Bengals have finally eliminated the revolving door thing at the head coaching position and they’ve kind of been rowing the boat in the same direction for a little while. Mike Zimmer is a tremendous defensive coordinator and I thought the find of the year last year was Jay Gruden. For Jay Gruden to come in with a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton and a rookie receiver in A.J. Green and a lot of uncertainty and zero expectations a year ago and make the playoffs – I thought that was one of the great untold stories from around the league. Of course, they got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, but if they hadn’t, I think people would have taken a deeper look at what everybody was predicting for the Bengals at the beginning of the year and just how much they overcame and how good they were by seasons end."
One thing that has certainly changed from the last time that the Bengals had a successful team, is the types of characters in the locker room:
"The thing that I like about them is that while they have some colorful characters, they’re not over-the-top anymore. I think that, to some extent, the great teams that you see have a way of humbling themselves. If you look at the teams that are so consistently on top – the Steelers, the Patriots – some of these teams just do a great job of showing up for work every day, getting the job done, not really caring about who gets all of the attention, and playing as a team. I think to some extent, they had some addition by subtraction last year. Even though they didn’t have a lot of experience on the field, I just felt that they were in it together in a much larger way then they’ve been in the past."
The Bengals have gotten their fair share of media praise this off-season, but the praise seems to be more genuine coming from Collinsworth. He understands what the fans have been thru over the years and knows that we are starving for not only a winner, but a consistent winner.