The MMQB has unveiled its 2016 list of the 100 people who will shape the NFL season, on and off the field. This year, the Bengals have three representatives on their list, one of offense, one on defense and one from the coaching staff.
The list is comprised of key coaches, players, decision members and others who are part of the NFL community, all of whom have a significant influence on the present and future of the league. With so many prominent people involved in the NFL, the Bengals are actually nicely represented on the list, though, the person ranked lowest is on the list for more of the wrong reasons than the right ones.
You won’t see Burfict on the field again until Sept. 29. The linebacker will serve a suspension during the first three games of 2016 for “repeated violations of safety-related playing rules.” Four years into his career, Burfict has a well-earned reputation as an exceedingly dirty player. He also has a well-earned reputation as an exceedingly talented one. The league has sent a message that his style of play will not be tolerated. The question when he returns to the field is whether one of the league’s best young linebackers on one of the league’s elite defenses will have the same edge.
— Gary Gramling
It’s nice to see Gramling giving Burfict his rightful acknowledgement as one of the league’s best linebackers. With so much national negativity surrounding him, the fact that he is one of the NFL’s best players at his position is often ignored by those outside of Cincinnati. How Burfict responds to his suspension — which ends one week from yesterday — will be a big factor in his career trajectory and the way he’s perceived by those around the league going forward.
After having his best year as a pro (25:7 TD-to-INT ratio over 13 starts), an injured Andy Dalton didn’t play in the Bengals’ season-ending meltdown in January, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t feel the same postseason pain. “We gave them the game,” he says, a snarl on his face. And so his sixth season begins, just like so many others have in the recent past, with the same big question looming over his team: Can Cincinnati win in the playoffs? Just once?
— Albert Breer
Dalton was actually ranked 38th last year, so apparently The MMQB thinks the Bengals quarterback is a little less important this year than he was last year. I’d say the Bengals can and will win in the playoffs, and hopefully, more than once.
And the most important Bengal of the year and the 32nd most important person in the NFL in 2016 is none other than head coach Marvin Lewis:
The NFL’s longest-tenured coach who doesn’t regularly wear a hoodie, Marvin Lewis’s résumé is positively glowing: He’s gone to the playoffs seven times in 13 seasons, including each of the last five. (You might recall the Bengals going 12 straight years without a winning record before Lewis arrived.) But detractors don’t have to dive too deep. Lewis is 0-7 in the postseason, with last year’s still-hard-to-believe meltdown snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. With a roster overflowing with talent and the championship window potentially closing at any minute, another failure in January would surely put Lewis at risk.
Former Bengals wide receiver and current NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth (83), former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson (37) and former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer (10) also made the list. What do you think about where Lewis, Dalton and Burfict rank? You can check out the full MMQB feature here.