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Is the Bengals’ lack of franchise success deliberate, or due to sheer ineptitude?

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Recently, a prominent national media member called the Bengals out on the carpet with the accusation that they actively attempt to be non-competitive. Is there truth to the notion?

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If you’ve been keeping up with the news surrounding the Bengals’ OTA sessions, you would be noticing a different vibe from that of the Marvin Lewis era. Players are openly noting a more uplifting, educational and positive experience this summer, as opposed to recent camps.

However, even with these glowing reports and the seemingly-solid draft class comes continued doubts. Some pundits have the Bengals going 3-13 in Zac Taylor’s inaugural season, while others seem to completely disregard the team in any AFC North prediction scenario.

Furthering that point, Evan Silva of RotoWorld Sports recently asked an interesting question, which once again painted the Bengals in a negative light.

At first blush, this seems like nothing more than “lazy journalism”, with Silva piggybacking on an anti-Bengals propaganda snowball tumbling down a mountain. The “glass is half-full” fan will likely put this comment up as bulletin board material for the team as they look to potentially surprise the league this year.

It also seems like a counter-intuitive argument for other reasons. Lewis was hired 16 years ago, as a move to shy away from the same, internal hires and bring a championship background to the team. As we all know, Lewis was instrumental in dragging the Bengals into NFL modernity, despite his 0-7 postseason record.

Subsequently, one can look at the massive coaching overhaul this season as result in the displeasure of Lewis’ lack of results in big-time scenarios. Very few coaches were held over, as the team is an early jumper to the league trend of grabbing a young, offensive-minded head coach.

Still, even though he didn’t directly point at this facet, one has to look at the team’s similar practices from “The Lost Decade” of 1992-2002 to support this argument. Free agency approach is perhaps the most obvious indicator.

Cincinnati didn’t go after many highly-coveted outside free agents, opting to sign two rotational players from the Giants’ defense in B.W. Webb and Kerry Wynn, as well as John Miller, the guard from Buffalo. That’s not to say this trio won’t be effective for the team in 2019, but their signings didn’t really move the national needle.

Additionally, it appears that the Bengals are out of the Gerald McCoy sweepstakes. After slyly noting interest and McCoy throwing compliments Cincinnati’s way, the All-Pro defensive tackle could be heading to one of their division rivals.

Yes, paying over $10 million per year (projected numbers for McCoy) for a guy who would be a rotational interior lineman for Cincinnati is a big price tag. Still, Baltimore has been able to sign some high-priced free agents and be in the running for McCoy with less cap space than the Bengals, while Cleveland has become the NFL’s darlings this year with their own headline-grabbing signings.

Common knowledge tells us that if the Bengals save the money that would have gone to McCoy, it will be going towards extensions for A.J. Green and/or Tyler Boyd. But, what if the miss out on one of those guys as well?

Really, the McCoy situation looks like it’s headed the route we’ve become very familiar with over the years. Cincinnati has both not learned from past mistakes, but also continues to staunchly stick to its guns after getting burned in the past. Of course, in the free agency realm, we’re talking about the Antwan Odom and Antonio Bryant disasters, even though those occurred a decade ago.

There are other peripheral signs pointing to the support of Silva’s stance. Like when we hear that Mike Brown is alone on a voting island during the annual owner’s meetings, or when our Orange and Black Insider podcast speaks to former Bengals greats like Anthony Munoz, as well as fellow offensive lineman Willie Anderson and we have to tiptoe around the fact that they aren’t properly enshrined within the walls of Paul Brown Stadium.

But, are these practices (or lack thereof) a deliberate slap in the face by management, or is it simply a lack of social awareness? And, really, which is worse?

The truth is that the Bengals are extremely slow-moving when it comes to change. It’s why the past two head coach hires have been pivotal in the direction of the team and its potential dispelling of so many longtime stereotypes.

The Bengals just have to prove everyone wrong—not only this year, but also in the years ahead, as the league continues to evolve. While the Brown family wants to show the rest of the NFL that “their way” of business can truly breed a championship, each passing year (and subsequent baby step changes in operations) tells us that it’s not the path to Lombardi Trophies.

Still, I’m not ready to proclaim the Brown family as folks who aren’t hungry for a championship. Most who have peeked behind the curtain to their inner circle have noted that they want to be a franchise that is admired for its on-field success.

Unfortunately, they also try to occasionally cut corners, financially-speaking. There are a number of examples of this, ranging from stadium issues, to inactivity in outside free agency, and it feeds the negative image presented by Silva.

You can hear the discussion between myself and John Sheeran on this topic at the 31:55 mark of the show.

Also on this week’s episode:

  • Indications are that Gerald McCoy has ruled out the Bengals as a possible destination, while also seemingly headed for a division rival. Was Cincinnati just negotiation leverage?
  • Is the “fun” vibe surrounding OTAs a sustainable approach by Zac Taylor and his staff? What happens if things go south early in the year? Will the approach change?
  • With Memorial Day in the rear view mirror, we reflect back on some of our favorite unheralded Bengals players over the years.

Be sure to join us for our standalone listener question episode and submit your questions to us via Twitter @BengalsOBI, or via call/text at (949) 542-6241!

If you’re unable to join us live for here at Cincy Jungle or YouTube every episode, all Orange and Black Insider content is available here on CJ, the Stitcher, Spotify and Google Play Music apps, our YouTube channel, as well as through Megaphone and, as always, on iTunes! You can tweet us @BengalsOBI or get in touch with us via email at theobinsider@gmail.com. Thanks for listening and go subscribe to our channels!