As the Bengals enter the 2017 NFL Season, fans are gearing up, ready to cheer on their team for the 50th straight year. There have been plenty of good times and plenty of bad times, but there has never been a Super Bowl victory in the team’s history.
In the 60s and 70s the Bengals didn’t seem particularly close to that elusive step, but they had two opportunities in the 80s. The 90s were a complete bust, but the team has been much more competitive in the last two decades. [Read: after guys like Marvin Lewis took the reigns and convinced Mike Brown to starting allowing others to make decisions about the team].
Luckily, the Bengals aren’t complacent in that fact, as explained in a 50th anniversary letter to fans from owner Mike Brown, with a Super Bowl victory being the subject of Brown’s ‘passion’.
This season will mark the Bengals’ 50th season in Cincinnati. Since we were formed in 1968, we have enjoyed great support – first at Nippert Stadium, then at Riverfront Stadium, and now at Paul Brown Stadium. Throughout all those years, there has been one constant: you, our fans. We appreciate your support, and I say "thank you" on behalf of the entire organization. We look forward to celebrating our team’s history with you this season.
Memories of our first 49 years are too many to mention, but through all the good times and bad, our fans have been right there with us. Our fans got us started on the right foot with a successful expansion franchise. We made the playoffs in our third season, an NFL record at the time. You cheered us on to our first Super Bowl in 1981 – after enduring a memorable Freezer Bowl along the way – and then supported us to a second Super Bowl that ended 34 seconds too late. You have shown us the way to six playoff appearances in the past eight years, including three AFC North Division crowns. You have been there for hundreds of other games. Some good, some agonizing, some too cold to recall, but we have always felt your presence and appreciated your support.
While we have had many good steps along the way, this 50th season reminds me that we have more steps that we want to take. My passion is to bring Cincinnati a much-deserved NFL championship and you have my pledge that our organization is hard at work with this goal in mind. I care deeply about this town. I raised my kids here, and I have an abiding appreciation for the support you have lent us through the years.
I don't know what our 50th season will hold for us. We have a good team, yet the NFL is a tough league. Will this be our season? I hope so. If I had my choice, our 50th season would give you a lifetime of memories, much as you have given me a lifetime of memories. I am thankful to you, and though the simple words “thank you” seem inadequate, for me they really say it all.
The shift in rhetoric for Brown is nice. For so many years, his focus was on making the team ‘competitive’, rather than ‘great’. That said, after a rough 2016 season, is a Super Bowl Championship a possibility in the near future?
Going from 6-9-1 to a Super Bowl contender is not an easy feat. However, consider the case of the Atlanta Falcons, who put up a measly 4-12 record in the 2013 season. The following year, they rebuilt significant portions of their roster, improving slightly to 6-10 in 2014.
The following year, they improved to 8-8, although still did not make the playoffs. But, in 2016, things started working in their favor as they finished 11-5 and fought their way through the playoffs to meet the Patriots in the Super Bowl. An epic fourth quarter collapse saw them relinquish a 28-3 lead, but it still goes to show how quickly a team can turn their fortunes around with the right moves and efforts taken.
The Bengals could have a Falcons-like rise after a remi-rebuild of their roster during the 2017 offseason. The offense has the potential to be absolutely frightening with weapons like A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, and Giovani Bernard all returning to help quarterback Andy Dalton put together a potent offense. With the additions of John Ross and Joe Mixon in the draft, the Bengals should have more offensive weapons than opposing defenses will know what to do with. On defense, the Bengals are remodeling the makeup of their front-seven, which could pay off exponentially. Kevin Minter was brought in as a free agent and the team drafted Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Ryan Glasgow and Jordan Evans to add depth to the group between the defensive line and linebacker positions. There’s also 2016 fourth round pick Andrew Billings who missed his rookie year with a torn meniscus and 2015 fourth round pick Marcus Hardison who missed his first two years with injuries. All of that talent should be a great boost to the defense in its efforts to get younger, more athletic and make overall improvements.
It is difficult to see the Bengals winning the Super Bowl in the upcoming season, considering all the new faces and roles. But, if they play their cards right, they have enough talent to make a Super Bowl run in the next few years. Crazier things have happened than a team that made the playoffs in six of the last eight seasons getting to the Super Bowl in the ninth season. Hopefully, when the Bengals reach their third Super Bowl, the team can finish with its first Lombardi Trophy.