Brandon Tate’s five-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals came to a close on Tuesday when the Bengals announced they had cut the veteran wide receiver and return specialist. During his time with the team, many fans grew increasingly frustrated with Tate’s lack of explosion both on offense and special teams.
That’s not to say he didn’t record big plays from time to time, but issues with hesitating before running the ball out of the endzone and occasional poor decision making regularly set the offense up with inadequate field positioning. He only lost one fumble over his career in Cincinnati, but he fumbled a total of 12 times in five years. For the most part, mental errors like those can kill returns and consistently result in extremely poor field positioning. However, despite the notable issues and general lack of excitement, Bengals players and coaches want everyone to remember that they view Tate as an integral part of the Bengals’ success in the last five years. Tate has been with the team in each of their winning and playoff seasons since 2011, after all.
"Brandon Tate has meant a great deal to the football team and how to do things the correct way all the time," Marvin Lewis said in a Tuesday press conference. "That’s one of the harder decisions we’ve had to make for a good person, good man, great family. Gives him hopefully another jump on an opportunity this year and may be back here at some point."
For some players, it was his presence as a veteran and ability to bring an element of consistency and leadership to the team that make him hard to bid farewell.
“He’s a guy that’s been essential to what we done over the last couple of years,” Andrew Whitworth told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “A great example and leader for the guys. He’ll be missed. He’s a guy that helped us more than people realize.”
Unfortunately for Tate, Football is a business and things can change unexpectedly and quickly. Tate managed to hold on to his job for five years while, more or less, doing the same thing every year. Given his steady and consistent production and the perceived lack of any real competition for his spot as a kick returner, many thought that he would remain with the team again this year simply due to being the most experienced and reliable option. But, the emergence of the undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin, Alex Erickson, at both wide receiver and returning specialist this offseason left Tate on the outside looking in.
"Not that Brandon lost it, but I think Alex earned that spot with his playmaking ability,” special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “You saw it. Everyone was kind of surprised week one. I was, too. And then it just kept happening week after week after week and there's something there. I have a great deal of faith in him."
Simmons, in particular, is one guy who didn’t enjoy seeing Tate go. The two have been working very closely together as coach and player since Tate arrived in 2011. Next to the highly productive Adam Jones and Tab Perry, Tate is easily one of the most consistently productive returners that Simmons has had the pleasure to work with, so you can imagine why it wasn’t easy for Simmons to see him go.
"It's always tough anytime you waive a player, especially with somebody like Brandon, somebody you have a great deal of trust in," Simmons said. "It's somebody I have an immense amount of respect for. I've had a lot of skins with him. We've won a lot of games with Brandon Tate. I've said that since Day 1, since he's been here. And I still say it to this day.”
Speaking of Jones, he really didn’t take the news of his fellow return man being cut well.
"I haven't seen nothing out of nobody where Tate shouldn't be here," Jones told The Enquirer. "I really don't have nothing to say about that."
“I’m at a loss for words on that one,” Jones said to Hobson.
That said, as hard as various members of the Bengals are taking the news of Tate’s release, the future is here and it looks bright. The team and fans alike will be looking forward to seeing what Erickson can do now that he’s earned their way onto the team. Cutting Tate wasn’t something that Simmons enjoyed, but he realizes there is plenty of reason to be excited about the Bengals’ roster.
“I'm also excited about what the future holds for the guys we have here in Alex and Tyler [Boyd],” Simmons said. “I think it goes to show you the amount of belief I have in those guys, too."