2016 has been quite the year for the Cincinnati Bengals, unfortunately highlighted by far more lows than highs. The year started off with Andy Dalton having a broken thumb and quickly continued with a terrible Bengals playoff loss (and maybe the worst loss in general since the Bengals lost in the Super Bowl back in the 1988 season). Then Tyler Eifert injured his ankle in the Pro Bowl; the Bengals lost Hue Jackson, Jay Hayes, Vance Joseph, Mark Carrier and Matt Burke. In response, Ken Zampese was named offensive coordinator and Jacob Burney, Kevin Coyle, Jim Haslett and Bill Lazor were hired as coaches.
The offseason also featured the losses of players Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Reggie Nelson, Leon Hall, Andre Smith, Emmanuel Lamur and Wallace Gilberry (temporarily).
The draft brought some excitement with the additions of William Jackson III, Tyler Boyd, and Andrew Billings, most notably. Unfortunately, by September, Jackson and Billings experienced serious injuries, which ended up keeping them both off the field for their rookie season.
All of that attrition doesn’t even begin to account for the Bengals’ 5-9-1 record heading into the final week of the season. This season has featured Vontaze Burfict’s three game suspension, Eifert’s recovery from his Pro Bowl ankle injury, then a back injury for the Pro Bowl tight end (those injuries combined cost him six games to start the season and now another two for the final weeks of the season). A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard also ended up going down with season-ending injuries, Green’s a partially torn hamstring and Bernard’s a torn ACL, which he’ll be recovering from for most, if not all, of the 2017 offseason.
And to top it all off, the Bengals will not be returning to the playoffs, marking their first season without a playoff berth in six years.
It’s safe to say 2016 has been a terrible year for the Cincinnati Bengals franchise and Cincinnati Bengals fans. There hasn’t been a worse year for the Bengals in quite some time.
Here are the top 10 stories from Cincy Jungle in 2016, which capture the terrible year we’ve all just experienced.
As if the Wild Card gut-wrenching loss at the hands of Pittsburgh wasn't bad enough, the NFL revealed that one of the game's biggest plays that went in favor of the Steelers should not have. During the third quarter with Pittsburgh leading 9-0 and in the red zone, Ben Roethlisberger fired a pass for Martavis Bryant in the back of the end zone that he pulled in but pinning it towards his butt. NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino said in his mind the Bryant catch should not have been a catch but also said because it was initially ruled a catch, there wasn't enough to overturn it via instant replay.
Zampese replaced Hue Jackson, who left to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns, after serving as the Bengals' offensive coordinator for the prior two seasons. The Bengals often stay in house with coaching hires by promoting assistant coaches, and they stuck with that method this time in finding their new offensive play-caller in the form of their 13-year quarterbacks coach.
"We're happy to help Hue," Marvin Lewis said. "We know how rough it was for him four years ago, when he basically went through hell, and how hard it was for him to work his way out of that. He has been a great addition to our staff for four years, in ways that people don't even understand.”
During the Cincinnati Bengals first playoff practice of 2016, Andy Dalton was at practice without a cast on his injured thumb for the first time in almost a month. But, that was false hope as Dalton was unable to play in the Bengals’ lone playoff game of the season.
NFL Pick Watch, which keeps track of every expert pick, had the Steelers getting 66-percent of the picks heading into the Wild Card matchup. 66 percent of experts were right -- though, they were almost wrong.
Bill Lazor may have not had success as Miami's offensive coordinator, but his career as a quarterbacks coach made him plenty qualified to take over for Ken Zampese as quarterbacks coach in Cincinnati. After letting defensive line coach Jay Hayes leave for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Bengals were quick to replace him with Burney. Seeing Hayes go was a surprise, but the Bengals delt they made a great hire in Burney.
The Cincinnati Bengals were without Andy Dalton, their starting quarterback for the Wild Card game, but the Pittsburgh Steelers were without their top two running backs. DeAngelo Williams was dealing with an ankle injury that sidelined him all week in practice leading up to the game, and he was ruled out for the matchup.
In a game that saw both teams have chances to put the game away and seal a win late, mistake after mistake allowed hopes to be kept alive on both sidelines. In the end, it was the Bengals who made the final (major) gaffe and the Steelers who capitalized to pull off the win.
The Bengals had the potential to lose several key players during the 2016 offseason if they are unable to re-sign guys like Adam Jones, George Iloka and Reggie Nelson. The former two were locked up, but Nelson and many others got away.
Maybe the Bengals coaches were as pissed as their fans about the playoff debacle that ended another promising season. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, co-defensive backs coach Vance Joseph, linebackers coach Matt Burke, and defensive line coach Jay Hayes are all leaving the team this offseason, mostly voluntarily to take jobs with other teams.
As you can see, the first month of the year dominated traffic due to the terrible playoff loss, coaches fleeing, coaches getting hired, and free agents getting ready to hit the open market. Those things combined are largely the source of blame for the 5-9-1 record the Bengals are now sporting.
Let’s hope next year’s top 10 trend more in a positive manner. Happy New Year!