Former Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh has been making the rounds with the media lately, and of course, he has been getting questions about the Bengals since they’re part of the hottest story right now with Joe Burrow looking like he will be the first overall pick.
The overall tone of the coverage has been fairly frustrating though. Many outlets say Cincinnati is stupid enough to pick someone else, they are going to ruin Burrow or that Burrow could/should pull an Eli Manning and ask that Cincinnati not select him. Houshmandzadeh gave an interesting response when visiting with Speak for Yourself when he was asked whether he thinks Burrow should follow through on the last idea.
“I don’t know Joe Burrow. I’ll get to know him as he starts preparing for the draft, but what I will say is this: the people that I’ve talked to him that know him, this doesn’t surprise me. They say this dude is full of confidence. He’s looking at it like, man, the Bengals are in the basement. Not if — when I bring them to the top — look how I’m gonna look. I’m just the guy for the job. That’s his mentality.”
When Houshmandzadeh was then pressed on the question of would he force his way to another team, He first claims that Burrow is confident in himself so he wouldn’t. However, when he is asked if he himself would force his way to another team, he responds with “If Carson (Palmer) couldn’t do it, I don’t think anybody can do it.”
Houshmandzadeh is probably remembered fondly by fans now. After all, he has helped out John Ross during the offseason to help bring along the young player. He even had a coaching internship with the team back in 2015. This is still a good time to remind everyone that Houshmandzadeh and the Bengals did not have a pretty split.
Following the 2008 season he took a deal with the Seahawks and made some not so flattering remarks about Cincinnati on his way out. He also more recently exposed some of the extremely poor conditions players had to deal with early in his career. He is already a player who chose to walk away from the Bengals, which is fair because somewhere else offered him more.
As for Carson Palmer, one could say the entire trajectory of this franchise changed with his knee injury during the Wild Card game in 2005. That team was at least good enough to make a deep playoff run, and it took Palmer several seasons to get back to himself. Ironically enough, it was 2009, the season after Houshmandzadeh left for the Seahawks, that Palmer was able to sweep the AFC North and return Cincinnati to the playoffs for the second time in his career (and his last with the Bengals).
Palmer had some fair complaints about how the franchise was run, but the fact is, Cincinnati had a quick turnaround after he left because they had a solid quarterback come in with Andy Dalton. The Bengals went to the playoffs five straight seasons, and that 2011 revival wasn’t all about Dalton, but there was renaissance of sorts as there were some coaching changes that helped get the offense to a more acceptable place.
The idea that Burrow couldn’t have that same impact is a lazy analysis. I understand that Houshmandzadeh has seen and knows more about the organization than many fans, but there are plenty of examples in the NFL’s history of a good quarterback going to a bad team and turning things around. It may not be an instant thing, but we have seen it work twice for the Colts alone with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.
It is a frustrating take that analysts have that the Bengals aren’t a great landing spot for Burrow. Their most recent history with young quarterbacks has been pretty quick successes. In Palmers’ second year starting he was an MVP candidate, and Dalton went to the playoffs five straight times. Dalton was also a realistic MVP candidate in 2015. The idea that Cincinnati is this place where quarterbacks go to die (like Cleveland) is as lazy as it is wrong.
We have no idea how well Burrow will translate to the NFL, because you can almost never predict that sort of thing. However, the idea that Burrow can’t do something with the Bengals that Palmer couldn’t pull off just isn’t a fair assessment to any party involved.