The Bengals’ front office was among the NFL's best from 2010-15, which also happened to be one of the best stretches in franchise history.
The continuity and consistency of the front office helped propel Cincinnati into the playoffs for five straight years while keeping much of the roster intact. The Bengals also hit it big in the draft with guys like Geno Atkins, Clint Boling, Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, George Iloka, Andy Dalton and Carlos Dunlap after Round 1.
However, a disastrous 2016 season has people rethinking their view of the Bengals’ front office. Last year’s 6-9-1 record was a big reason why Cincinnati dropped to 11th overall in Rotoworld's latest NFL GM rankings, a six-spot fall from 2015.
11. Marvin Lewis/Duke Tobin/Mike Brown, Bengals
Last Year’s Ranking: 5
Even with the duties split between coach Marvin Lewis, owner Mike Brown and director of player personnel Duke Tobin, the Bengals have emerged as one of the league’s top draft-and-develop teams. The problem lately is how much of that talent has been allowed to walk out the door. Coming off their first losing season since 2010, the Bengals must replace LT Andrew Whitworth, RG Kevin Zeitler and RB Rex Burkhead. This, after Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones departed in 2016. These aren’t the first players to bolt the Bengals on the open market, but a series of uncommonly poor drafts has left the replacement cupboard rather bare. Tackle and corner, in particular, have seen massive draft resources produce very little return on investment. What was looking like a well-oiled machine is suddenly sputtering. Lewis, Brown and Tobin still have a decent core, but could be forced to tear it down if this draft doesn’t go better than the past three.
The Bengals don’t even have a GM, technically speaking, though, it’s really Tobin. But, considering the ups-and-downs of the franchise and lack of playoff wins, ranking 11th isn’t too shabby for the Bengals when considering all NFL GMs.
Heading into the 2016 season, outside of having a new offensive coordinator in Ken Zampese, the Bengals were among the best franchises when it came to stability and continuity, two things this franchise has prided itself on under Marvin Lewis.
That’s come to a fault at times with guys like Russell Bodine, Domata Peko, Rey Maualuga, Brandon Tate and even Lewis himself having big roles with the team for long periods, whereas many other franchises would have looked to find upgrades over those players and coach much sooner.
But it’s also been great having guys like Boling, Iloka, Dalton, Bernard, Green, Dunlap and Atkins spend the best years, if not all the years of their NFL careers in Cincinnati.
However, the Bengals dropped the ball with some of their best players over the last two years, leading to their eventual departures to new teams. That includes Marvin Jones, Andrew Whitworth, Mohamed Sanu, Kevin Zeitler, Reggie Nelson and Rex Burkhead.
The losses this offseason (Whitworth, Zeitler, Burkhead) will have a dramatic effect on how well the team does in 2017. It doesn’t help that the most recent draft classes have left a lot to be desired in Cincinnati. The 2014 draft has yielded mixed results in Hill, Bodine and Darqueze Dennard.
2015’s class hasn’t much better with Cedric Ogbuehi being a massive bust thus far. Jake Fisher hasn’t played much, and Josh Shaw has been up-and-down through two seasons. Though the 2016 class has only had one year to show its worth, Tyler Boyd and Cody Core were the most significant contributors to last year’s team with Nick Vigil
All of this is why the Bengals are to be ranked 11th in this ranking. Their recent history suggests they could have been placed a lot lower.