Marvin Lewis has been one of the most honest coaches in the NFL, at least when it comes to the injury report.
This summer, the NFL’s elimination of the “probable” designation set the fantasy football community ablaze, as now a player is either questionable, doubtful, out or off the injury report completely. A player being “questionable” to play isn’t always the most encouraging thing to see, as uncertainty of whether the player will play on Sunday always seems to loom large.
Per ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, “the NFL's updated definition for ‘questionable’ is that it is ‘uncertain as to whether the player will play in the game,’ according to a resolution approved this summer by the competition committee.”
This essentially means that a player who is listed as “questionable” has a 50-50 shot at playing on Sunday. And though vague, the “questionable” designation might even hint at a higher percentage, due to the fact that it now also covers the former “probable” designation.
In 2016, every Bengals player given the “questionable” designation has been active on Sundays:
Credit Marvin Lewis for his transparency, but also credit he and his staff for demonstrating patience with players and ensuring they’re ready to go by game time. The Bengals eased Tyler Eifert back into action, didn’t force Dre Kirkpatrick back onto the field despite a pretty solid game in the previous week and gave both Darqueze Dennard and James Wright a week off during different points of the season to recover from injuries. In none of the five times a player has been listed as “doubtful” has that player been active for the Bengals this season.
And, the Bengals have taken players off the injury list completely, listing no injury designation on injury reports during the season, after the players were limited or non-participants in practices that week. While other teams leave any and every player on the injury report for the full week, and hand out “questionable” designations for players who they know are going to suit up, the Bengals don’t do that. When they know a player is going to play, they remove that player from the report.
The discrepancy between being honest on the injury report and treating the process as a mindgame was best exemplified in the Week 6 matchup between Cincinnati and New England. Eifert was the only player on the report for Cincinnati and he was listed as “out”, as the Bengals knew he wouldn’t play. Meanwhile, while Bill Belichick and the Patriots listed 12 players as questionable. Of the Patriots’ seven inactives from that week, three of those players were healthy scratches — keep in mind New England put 16 players on the injury report that week. Meanwhile, nine of the 12 players listed as questionable were active.
Does it get much more questionable than that?
When the NFL decided to eliminate the probable designation for this year’s injury reports, the hope was to bring more clarity to the process and for coaches to paint a realistic picture of who would and who would not suit up in any given week. For the Bengals, that has certainly happened. For other teams, it has not. So while the Bengals’ injury reports have been 100% accurate, that doesn’t even take into account how truthful the Bengals are really being with their reports compared to other teams who are playing mind games on a weekly basis.