Old habits die hard, and some stigmas are harder to lift than others.
When the Bengals blew it all up relative to their own standards this offseason, no one was really sure to what degree of residual change would be felt following the exodus of Marvin Lewis and most of his coaching staff. The first six months of the Zac Taylor regime has provided us a glimpse at what can be expected going forward.
On the (practice) field and in the lower halls of Paul Brown Stadium, it’s not just a refreshing change of pace, it’s a whole new game. To say that Taylor’s authentic and energetic culture has been well received is a vast understatement. Maybe the grass looks greener because of how yellow the lawn looked like for the past few years, but it’s hard to dismiss the message when everyone is sending it. Genuine excitement and clear communication during practice and in the locker room? What team is this again?
We’re still weeks away from seeing how that all translates onto the field just in an exhibition environment, but the floor-level operations front looks vastly improved. Upper management, on the other hand, looks more like the same old song and dance in comparison.
Rumblings from the Taylor hire told us that Katie and Troy Blackburn, along with faux GM Duke Tobin, had the majority influence into making the decision. This leads us to believe that President and Owner Mike Brown is slowly but surely passing off the steering wheel to the car. A new driver (or in this case, drivers) is much needed, but how new can they be if the old one taught them how to drive?
Free agency for the Bengals proved how much further their front office has to go in order to catch up with the rest of the NFL. Giving Bobby Hart the ninth most total cash in 2019 for right tackles — and then justifying the investment by comparing the market to a Walmart low on inventory — probably tells us all we need to know about Mr. Blackburn as a major decision maker in an NFL franchise. Announcing the lucrative deal Preston Brown received directly afterwards in order to ease the blowback for that signing is as savvy as you’d expect for someone who works under Brown.
Re-signing C.J. Uzomah deserved a gold star, but what about external signings? The featured players include an offensive lineman who left a team that replaced four starters from last season and a cornerback who had been with five teams since 2013. But what’s done, is in fact, done. The Bengals have their team, they just have to find exactly how it will look.
Once they do, they’ll have some factors going for them, mainly regarding luck. For starters, teams who experience a multitude of injuries one season typically stay healthier the next. Per Football Outsiders, Cincinnati ranked 28th in Adjusted Games Lost due to injuries, and five teams who finished in the bottom 10 from 2017 finished in the top 10 last year. With the unfortunate news of Jonah Williams’ injury, they’re not off to a great start, but last season was so cataclysmic, it’d be an accomplishment to top it.
Coupled with their lack of injury luck, the Bengals lost a lot of coin flips last year, also known as one-score games. In the seven games they finished with a score differential of eight or less, the Bengals were 2-5. Their winning percentage of 28.6% was the third-worst in the league. With Andy Dalton, they were 2-2 in one-score games. The other three losses came when Jeff Driskel was the starter. If you go back since the mid-2000s, you’ll find that teams who are unlucky in this regard typically finished with a better overall record the following season. Rarely does it have to do with the quality of the team, the ball just has to roll a certain way sometime.
Finally, a last-place schedule is something the Bengals aren’t used to facing, but with the emergence of the Browns, the Bengals get the luxury of playing the second-easiest schedule based on last year’s records. Some those teams who finished near the bottom of the league along with the Bengals will undoubtedly be better, but hey, it’s something.
Admittedly, things like regression to the mean and general luck probably don’t instill much confidence in the Bengals’ fanbase, but if you managed to remain optimistic throughout the facade that has been the last three years, surely you can see some light this time around.
So, where does your confidence stand in this year’s Bengals?
How confident are you in the Bengals this season?
This poll is closed
High, they’re making a run for the damn thing
Middling, I need to see so much more
Low, what’s the 2020 QB class looking like