We all know you aren’t coming to see where the Bengals rank this week.
After losing to the Steelers, Cincinnati fell to 0-11, which is the worst start in franchise history. You know where they rank, but what you’re probably here for is to see what the national media has to say about the Bengals. Who knows maybe you’re here to laugh along with them.
We aren’t here to judge.
Maybe if Tyler Boyd doesn’t fumble in the red zone in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh, and the Bengals score a go-ahead touchdown en route to their first win, spirts would be up at team headquarters, and Ryan Finley would be prepping for another start. But Boyd did fumble, and the Bengals didn’t score, and so Cincinnati remains winless. And now we say goodbye to Finley, replaced Monday as the starter by -- wait for it -- Andy Dalton. It’s a shaky look from an organizational standpoint -- remember, benching the longtime starter Dalton was supposed to be in service of getting a long look at what they had in the rookie Finley. By turning back to the veteran, it’s clear Zac Taylor and the Bengals have eschewed appearances in favor of giving themselves the best shot to avoid 0-16. It’s hard to blame them, ultimately, but this is not how functional teams operate.
Dreaming about having the top overall pick in next year’s draft is the only solace for a team still winless after Week 12. Luckily for the Bengals, they have a two-game lead on the rest of the pack for the No. 1 selection. If the offense keeps struggling, Bengals fans will keep dreaming about the possibility of someone such as LSU’s Joe Burrow wearing orange and black next year.
Have they found out enough about Ryan Finley? Is Joe Burrow their guy?
Why put Andy Dalton back in? He’s gone this offseason, the Bengals pulled a full two games clear in the race for the bottom and can’t miss with the top pick, right? Well, the last Pro Bowler drafted in the first round by the Bengals was Tyler Eifert in 2013 (six top-25 selections ago).
I feel comfortable saying the Bengals would have won one of the last two games with Andy Dalton at quarterback. Zac Taylor is going back to Dalton, which just makes the odd decision to turn to Ryan Finley at midseason look worse. That bad decision is a big reason 0-16 is looming.
By virtue of Sunday’s six-point loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers JV team, the Bengals have set a new franchise record for futility. No Bengals team had ever started a season 0-11. No Bengals team had ever lost more than 10 consecutive games. No Bengals team has ever been this bad—and given the franchise’s history, that’s saying something. The best we can offer is that Cincinnati now has a two-game lead in the race for the first pick in the 2020 draft.
The Bengals somehow have built a two-game “lead” in the race to the bottom for the No. 1 overall selection in the NFL draft. That’s quite an accomplishment in a season in which the Dolphins were accused of tanking. The switch back to Andy Dalton at QB leads to the question: Why?
Again, we can’t argue with the ranking. Most of the other teams near the Bengals in the rankings even won this week, so they had no hope of moving up somehow.
What we can talk about is what all the national writers are talking about, and that is the decision to go back to Andy Dalton. Admittedly, it is a strange move. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it doesn’t make sense though.
Last week was the nail in the coffin for rookie quarterback Ryan Finley. He was inaccurate for most of the game, and the same issues with being late on throws, arm strength and fumbles persisted. All of that probably could’ve been forgiven for a few more weeks had he proved to have anything resembling the clutch gene. But over the past two weeks, he has had a combined four drives to potentially put a game-winning or tying drive together, and none of them even got off the ground.
At this point, it shouldn’t be surprising for the Bengals to decide to either bring in another quarterback on top of whoever they draft early or decide to try and hold onto Andy Dalton for a bridge year where he can also function as a backup (I say try because he clearly wasn’t happy with the first benching).
What we saw from Finley over three weeks is a guy who can’t be in a situation where the defense knows you have to throw the ball, and there is no reason to have that guy on a roster. He needs to really improve this offseason.