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Bengals mailbag: Expectations for the present and the long-term

This week, the readers of Cincy Jungle and listeners of The Orange and Black Insider had a lot of concerns about the long-term viability of the Bengals under Zac Taylor and the front office, as it is structured.

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Through just two weeks of the 2019 NFL season, the Cincinnati Bengals appear to be at a crossroads. There have been both positives and negatives to be witnessed in their 0-2 start, it’s hard to discern the direction in which this year’s team is headed.

On one hand, the Bengals have shown some fight and seem to have a promise for competitiveness—especially when star players return from injury. On the other, this looks to be a team in transition, as a new head coach tries to forge a roster in his image.

This week, we attempted to take the pulse of Who Dey Nation in the form of fielding their questions. The aspects on their minds were both interesting and somewhat-predictable.

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Unfortunately, when a team starts the season at 0-2 after having low expectations by most media outlets, “moral victories” tend to be the straws most grasp for in the scenario. Cincinnati is currently in that boat, so outlets are naturally pointing to a high pick placed on a quarterback in 2020.

The question that the reader sent wasn’t a dumb one at all, it’s just a matter of sorting out the proper verbiage and context. Do you want the Bengals to win, either in a potentially-futile push towards the postseason, or is this a more secret tank project for a franchise-changing quarterback prospect?

Look, for those who want the Bengals to tank, there are issues with the idea. Of course, if the Bengals stumble into a top-five pick, they could grab a player who could change the organization. That is not easy task, as many of us who have been around these parts for any amount of time know the shortcomings that are part-and-parcel of this team’s front office.

Questions on “the tank plan” abound, largely centering around the Bengals’ ability to even identify “the right guy”. Can this franchise, with its many shortcomings, be trusted to even make the right decision at this fork-in-the road?

Regardless, the goal for the Bengals this Sunday should be to win. Not only because of some cliche, “Varsity Blues” reason, but for belief in the future. And, we’re not just talking about the tailgaters in The Queen City.

There are veterans in the Paul Brown Stadium locker rooms who have seen and experienced more soap opera storylines than many other NFL players. Some borderline Hall of Fame players have only known Marvin Lewis-era traditions, so a new coach had to have been refreshing. But a winless start to the season can make believers of few.

Even if a win against the questionable Bills gets the Bengals briefly back into the playoff hunt, it’s a nugget of hope. And, in case you’re new around these parts, hope is a hard thing to come by since the 2015 Wild Card debacle.

A part of me believes that this 2019 Bengals team bears resemblances to those of 2003 and 2011. The latter squad was picked to go winless by outlets like Pro Football Talk, while the former surprised the league in Lewis’ first season as an NFL head coach.

The other part has a tough time overlooking the flaws on this current team. Even with some of the returns of star players, these problems could still be prevalent.

Week 3 is a crossroads for the Bengals. Win and they can build on an unlikely playoff push; lose and you’re undoubtedly looking to next year’s draft.

If you’ve been listening to our Orange and Black Insider podcast, you would have known our stance on the Bengals and their offseason approaches. I still believe that this team can be competitive in 2019, while also looking to package a deal to move up for one of these quarterbacks in the next two classes.

My advice? As hard as it may seem, be patient. The Bengals were 3-5 before finishing 8-8 and almost winning the AFC North in 2003, while the club sneaked into the postseason bracket in Andy Dalton’s rookie year.

Obviously, patience will grow from a win against a 2-0 team on their home turf. Still, while the Bengals have publicly stated they believed they can win now, the Taylor regime clearly points to a long game.

A win would be nice and should be the obvious aim this Sunday, We’ll see if the Bengals are prepared for what’s needed.

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This wasn’t the only question we received this week, by any stretch of the imagination. Also on this week’s mailbag:

  • Are the Bengals bringing in anything resembling a competition for Randy Bullock?
  • Is there a concrete prediction for the Bengals’ win-loss total at this point in time?
  • What’s going on with Germaine Pratt?

Our thanks to our live listeners and for those who tuned in after the recording! Join us every time we go live on Cincy Jungle’s Facebook page, or on The Orange and Black Insider YouTube channel.

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