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It’s time. Beat the Browns

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Who Dey.

NFL: DEC 23 Bengals at Browns Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s time. It’s time to feel good about the Bengals winning again.

It’s the last week of 2019. The Bengals have clinched the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They haven’t beaten the Cleveland Browns in over two calendar years.

Guess who they play to close out the 2019 season?

What a season it’s been. Going into halftime during their season-opener against the Seahawks, it look like the Bengals were onto something. A team that's under achieved for the past three years with an overhauled coaching staff not only looked like they were going to start 1-0, all the offseason hype looked to be validated. Zac Taylor’s Rams-style offensive approach seemed to be getting the most out of Andy Dalton and John Ross. Combine that with the defense feasting off of it’s revitalized pass rush and this team looked primed to compete for real once A.J. Green returned.

Not that Green’s inevitable season-long absence made all of those other mirages dissipate, but it does feel like the cherry on top of the worst sundae ever.

The Bengals would of course take the L in Seattle after putting up three measly second-half points and the back of their defense broke just when it couldn’t. This would set the stage for problems that would just not go away. The offense devolved into a dysfunctional mess; who’s awful quarterback play would make them the enemy of consistency. Taylor’s scheme simply didn’t mesh with his personnel and the first-year head coach looked way in over his head.

In the ultimate team sport, the domino effect is very real. With the offense stumbling over its own feet, the equally-putrid defense had more pressure put on its plate as a result and they handled it about as well as you could expect. This team went from potentially promising to horrifyingly inferior in the blink of an eye. Perhaps this is because they were bad from the start.

As the losing—close and not so close—persisted, the big picture questions were getting asked. With 70% of the coaching staff being brand new and the roster barely turned over from the previous year, the debate over the crux of the issues raged. Is this coaching staff that was hastily put together just not good enough, or has this poorly constructed roster already been propped up as much as possible from the previous three years when they won 19 games?

Without successful drafting, winning becomes immeasurably harder for the Bengals. Self-imposed or not (depending on whom you ask), Cincinnati’s organizational flaws are exposed the most when the offseason comes around. Putting all of their eggs into one basket of the draft is fine when they don’t miss on picks, but the beast of the draft is nearly impossible to tame and sooner or later, misses will occur. Sometimes by the bunch.

This is why the concept of tanking became mainstream for Bengals fans. Tanking is objectively a myth in football, but that didn’t matter. They were bad enough to make it look like they were while still trying.

If they can no longer be trusted to build a contending team through the draft, then the best situation for them to be in is at the bottom of the league, where the choice at No. 1 overall is no choice at all. The only asset that can elevate a roster that will likely never be fully complete due to a lack of free agency presence is a quarterback that can mask team-level issues with his play. If one team has the advantage at quarterback, they will always be able to win.

Hope exists. And now that they’re here, hope has found its way into the perpetually broken hearts of Bengals fans.

The damage is done and their fate is set. No matter what side you were on as this season dragged its way to the finish line, you cared about the Bengals in some capacity. You are clinically insane one way or the other. That’s okay. So is everyone besides you.

The only thing left to do is unite for one more week.

Beat the Browns.