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How the Bengals are setting up their most important investments for failure

The Bengals can cycle through however many coaches and quarterbacks they would like, but until they change their internal approach, the team has a foundation of sand.

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When the Bengals made the move away from Marvin Lewis into what looked to be an innovative step for the franchise, some folks believed that Cincinnati could be a surprise team in the 2019 NFL landscape. The AFC North looked vulnerable and Zac Taylor’s offensive system seemed to be good news for the Bengals’ myriad of skill position stars.

Unfortunately, every single concern surrounding the team has come to fruition. Offensive line issues, the inexperience of the staff, never-ending injuries and a regression of important veterans have lead to one of the worst seasons in team history.

Of course in a winless start close to the midway point of the year and in a roller coaster season performance at quarterback, everyone is questioning the Taylor hire and decision to stick with Andy Dalton. The Bengals are notoriously loyal, so Taylor will likely be given slack of the leash beyond this year, but the same may not be said for No. 14.

As easy as it is to bash those two who are taking the criticism in the limelight, it’s the folks behind the curtain who deserve the blame. Poor personnel decisions, recent draft classes with very low yields and free agency inactivity are primary culprits for the team’s three-and-a-half year run that has culminated in a 19-35-1 record since their last playoff berth in 2015.

The focus now is in finding the next generational talent at quarterback. There seem to be a glut of can’t-miss prospects at the position in 2020-2021, so Cincinnati can potentially right the ship if they hit on the next big thing at the most important roster spot.

However, this band-aid is simply a temporary solution to a long-term problem. The Bengals are the guy hoping to come up with triple-seven’s on the weekly scratcher purchase, while still searching the classified ads for gainful employment.

How long will a marriage between the next great quarterback and the team last, should the same operational practices be in place? Carson Palmer was once talked about in the same breath as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in the mid-2000s, but roster attrition and the Brown family’s ways of ownership made him want out of The Queen City.

Dalton admirably took over for Palmer and spearheaded the best stretch of seasons in team history. But, check out the despondent look on his face, as he frustratingly looks at the surrounding “talent” he is forced to work with on a weekly basis.

The team simply did not live up to its end of the bargain in surrounding Dalton with ample talent, nor have they supplied its new staff with enough resources to be immediately successful. Maybe these issues are all part of the growth process that comes with a new staff and some of it was expected, but the team openly puffed its chest proclaiming they had the talent to win right away with this new staff in 2019.

Have you ever worked for an organization with major deficiencies? Whether it’s at the ownership or management levels, financial uncertainty and/or poor talent acquisition, these can torpedo even the most promising of businesses.

Negative aspects from the top of an organization create a trickle-down effect. Employee motivation lowers greatly, levels of accountability dissipate and an overall toxic culture permeates throughout various levels of the company.

While the NFL is a different type of business entity, its franchises aren’t immune to these wide-scoped problems. As sad as it is to say (and easy during an 0-7 season), the Cincinnati Bengals seem to be the flagship example of these issues within the NFL business sphere.

The Brown family can cycle through as many coaches and quarterbacks that they would like, but the fact remains that they will remain non-competitive and in a continuous search for answers as long as they continue down the same operational path. The Bengals may stumble onto temporary success because they luck (or suck) into finally drafting quality players, but as it goes with all employees in an inept organization, the non-management-level employees eventually succumb to factors outside of their control and throw their hands up in despair.

This seems like a grim way to look at the future of this franchise and you’d be correct in that assessment. Unfortunately, it’s a reality those of us who have been around this team for any length of time have had to deal with over the years.

However, the good news is that the team can change its philosophies and get things corrected in a quick manner. It’s just a matter of their level of desire to do so.

How badly do they want the Taylor hire to work and have it resemble that of Sean McVay’s tenure in Los Angeles? How much do they want Andy Dalton to be the guy to hoist a Lombardi Trophy for the franchise? Is the latter visual even the goal of the front office?

Each loss is an opportunity for organizational change and the Bengals had better embrace those chances.

Also on tap for discussion this week after the Bengals’ loss to the Jaguars:

  • Lou Anarumo’s “bend-but-don’t-break defense” has put the Bengals in position to win, despite giving up big yards to opponents.
  • Was Andy Dalton’s performance the final breaking point for the team? Will they stick with him to start the rest of the year?
  • The offensive line’s ineffectiveness, even though backups are playing at a couple of spots, is simply staggering.

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