Here’s the thing about being a writer on the interwebz: We make is sound like we know everything, even firing arrogant responses on social media when someone challenges us. Let me provide a behind the scenes window on this: No one knows everything, including reporters, analysts, bloggers, or nighttime writers who drunkenly complain about a starter suddenly being released and look at ownership possibly bungling another move.
Reports suggested production was an issue, with subtle offseason hints about the team’s view at safety after chatting with Eric Reid and Kurt Coleman, and eventually drafting Jessie Bates. A handful of reports cite “financial” reasons. Some of us believe the reason could have been his activity in discussing social issues on social media, and an ol’ bird like Mike Brown, who is facing a complaint from Reid after Bengals ownership asked his intentions regarding the anthem protest, not liking that.
There are other theories.
Responses on Twitter and comments on this site provide some, many of which are good, logical thoughts. Before we continue, keep in mind that these theories are inter-connected weaves of the same pattern.
1) George Iloka didn’t fit into Teryl Austin’s scheme:
I just think what Iloka brings to the table isn’t what Teryl Austin wants. Iloka wasn’t the same after Reggie Nelson left. Replacing RN w/ Williams put Iloka in a spot that should be ball hawking & that isn’t his strength. Williams/Bates makes more sense complimenting each other.— Jeff Riley (@JeffRiley4) August 19, 2018
This became a popular theory — one that makes you think... this explains a lot. It doesn’t require an argument against production (rather a different kind of production). Simply put, Austin wants a free flowing center fielder who has stronger instincts against the pass.
2) It’s the new helmet rule!
A fellow Bengal fan complained to me about Iloka’s playing style. Always trying to land a huge hit rather than playing the ball - Kevin.Evans.77377.
The NFL implemented a new 15-yard penalty this offseason in which players cannot lower their heads to initiate contact. From the NFL:
Penalties for Violation: Loss of 15 yards. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down. The player may also be ejected. Ejection standards:
1. Player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet.
2. Unobstructed path to his opponent
3. Contact clearly avoidable and player delivering the blow had other options
Let’s just say that the new rule has caused anger and alarm among defensive players.
One player this could impact is Iloka, a hard-hitting safety who looks for the next big shot. In a way, this also relates to the point that defensive coordinator Teryl Austin wants a safety who is more wide-ranging, looking to react to a pass rather than plow a ball-carrier.
3) Reggie Nelson departure impacting the current team
Since Reggie Nelson left the Bengals have been playing with two strong safeties. Neither Iloka or Williams plays like a free safety. - Rob Lewis.
Since Reggie Nelson left for Oakland (well, wasn’t re-signed and thus left for Oakland), the Bengals moved Iloka into his free safety role. The problem is that Iloka’s style is more geared toward that of an enforcer, rather than a centerfielder. Essentially the Bengals tried placing a square box into a circular hole.
Between 2011-2015, Nelson’s opposing quarterback rating was 73.9, 59.7, 102.5, 50.0, and 61.8. He allowed a high percentage of completions (over 60 percent every year except for one), but he was also really good as positioning himself to secure 23 interceptions during his Bengals career.
When Iloka took over as the center fielder in 2016, he allowed quarterbacks to complete 64.2 percent of their passes, with a passer rating of 85.3 and 68.4 in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Last year, Iloka only intercepted one pass (only one defensive player had more than one interception), but Cincinnati was obviously disappointed in his (lack of) production.
Was the lack of production because he was out of place once Nelson left? Same say yes.