There is a growing group of Bengals fans rooting for the team to lose their last few games. Some of these fans want them to lose so they get a new head coach. Others want them to tank for a draft pick. The Bengals aren’t going to get better by losing, and here is why.
Lose to get a better draft pick
This isn’t the NBA where there are only a handful of players in a draft that can be difference makers. Even if it were, it is not like the Bengals are anywhere near the top of the draft.
After losing to the Bengals, the Raiders moved up to the second pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, At that spot, a team is likely to get one of the elite players in the draft like a Myles Garrett-esqe edge rusher, a Saquon Barkley-type running back, or even a new quarterback.
After trading away Khalil Mack, the Raiders are likely hoping to get Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, but may not even be able to pull that off unless they get the top pick.
Obviously having a higher draft pick is better than having a lower draft pick, but what you do with it is more important. For example, the Bears drafted Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, while the Chiefs traded up the 10th pick to snag Patrick Mahomes II, who went 10th, and the Texans followed their lead and got Deshaun Watson with the 12th pick. Many analysts preferred Mahomes and Watson to Trubisky (check my timeline), but apparently, the NFL did not.
The Bengals aren’t going to get Bosa regardless. There is no obvious quarterback they may target, so at the end of the day, moving a couple of slots in the draft may not be a huge deal.
The Bengals selected John Ross with the ninth overall pick in 2017 (over Mahomes and Watson) and Billy Price with the 21st pick in this year’s draft. Both players have some potential, but they were limited by injuries as rookies.
Nevertheless, Ross and Price could be foundational pieces for the Bengals moving forward. One was a top-10 pick, and the other was in selected in the second half of the first round as a result of the Bengals trading back.
Winning on Sunday moved the Bengals from the 11th pick to the 14th pick in the current draft order. At both spots, mock drafts have linked the team to LSU linebacker Devin White. Despite the Bengals moving from the 11th to 13th slot, White is still being mocked to them.
The first linebacker taken in the draft this past April was Roquan Smith, who was selected by the Bears with the eighth overall pick. If the Bengals lose their next two games, they could certainly climb that high, and if they win their next two games, their pick will continue to fall.
Comparing Smith to White as prospects is not comparing apples to apples, but it is conceivable that finishing 7-9 or even 8-8 could move them out of range to draft White.
Frankly, that doesn’t matter. If they want a certain player, they should be willing to be aggressive and trade up for him. This is not the type of move this franchise is known for, but that is how it should be done. Franchises should not get caught up in draft order outside of the first several picks.
If they want a player, they have the ability to move and go get him. Likewise, having a top-10 pick would not guarantee that they would get White (if he does end up being their target). A more aggressive team with the same need could easily make a deal to pass in front of them.
Lose to get a new coach
Honestly, the next few games shouldn’t matter. If the Brown family hasn’t seen enough over the last few years to want to let Marvin Lewis go, how bad would the next few weeks have to be to actually make a difference? Seriously. Mike Brown’s view regarding the direction of the team should not be swayed by a couple of token wins at the end of the season, even if that was believed to be the case for last season.
The Bengals need to learn how to win
The Bengals are at the bottom of the AFC North, and much like the team that used to carry that distinction in Cleveland, they have no idea how to win football games.
Do the Bengals have some notable holes on their roster? Yes, but they have enough talent to make the playoffs. Do they have poor coaching? Absolutely, but their biggest problem is the losing culture that persists in Paul Brown Stadium.
There are two ways to address this: The difficult way (and likely the way they will proceed) is to grind it out. This can work for teams with a coach who is respected and will work guys to the bone. That does not seem to be the situation in Cincinnati.
The “easy” way is to have a change in leadership. The quotation marks are inserted because this way is far from easy despite how Sean McVay continues to make it look.
The Los Angeles Rams did a great job of finding a talented coach like McVay and giving him the reins. Finding the right person isn't easy though (see the Arizona Cardinals or the Bengals from 1992-2002).
The Rams also invested heavily in building that team, spending money and draft capital to acquire Ndamukong Suh, Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and of course Andrew Whitworth.
Matt Nagy may also make it look easy in Chicago, but when he took over as head coach of the Bears, he inherited a defensive coordinator in Vic Fangio who should have gotten a head coaching job years ago. This was also a team not afraid to make big moves to acquire players, most notably Khalil Mack.
So even if a potential candidate like former Bengal and current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is the next Bill Belichick, he will be hard-pressed to take this team to the next level without a lot of support coming from the organization.
The Long and Short
Losing is not acceptable — not this year, and certainly not next year. The Bengals need to win and shakeup their losing culture. Changes at head coach and quarterback could help, but only if the correct decision is made (and the NFL is generally pretty bad at these decisions).
Either way, the team needs to make better decisions, spend more money, and have massive schematic changes on offense and defense.
The Bengals need to be smart with their injured players like Tyler Boyd, but they also need to do everything in their power to win with the players on the field this season and use all of their resources to improve this offseason.