For the second-straight season, the Bengals sit in last place in the AFC North by multiple games before we even make it to November.
After losing their first 11 games in 2019, the 2020 Bengals are 1-4-1 after the first six weeks. While a minor improvement, it’s still not nearly good enough for any franchise, even one that’s endured four-straight losing seasons and looks well on its way to a fifth.
While there’s a lot of blame to go around, the coaching staff has been catching a lot of heat lately, and for good reason. Every week, it looks like at least one side of the ball is vastly unprepared and outmatched from a scheme and play-calling standpoint.
On Sunday, the defense blew a 21-0 lead en route to a 31-27 loss to the Colts, who converted 7/11 3rd downs (64%). Even with that big game, the Colts are still converting just 39.2% of 3rd downs, which ranks 24th in the NFL.
One thing that may explain the Bengals’ 3rd-down breakdowns is the fact that defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo isn’t calling 3rd-down plays. Instead, it’s linebackers coach Al Golden making those calls, according to Elise Jesse.
I'm told by multiple people inside the Bengals organization that linebackers coach Al Golden is handling calls on third-down/rush packages.— Elise Jesse (@EliseJesseTV) October 20, 2020
Golden, who was hired this offseason as the Bengals’ linebackers coach, has an extensive coaching background, though most of it has been in college. He was Virginia’s defense coordinator from 2001-05, Temple’s head coach from 2006-10, and Miami’s head coach from 2011-15.
Since then, Golden has been the tight ends coach for the Lions from 2016-17, then their linebackers coach from 2018-19 before taking the same job in Cincinnati this past offseason.
The Bengals defense currently rank 17th in points allowed, 25th in total defense and 22nd in opponent 3rd-down conversions.
I’m sure the Bengals aren’t the first or only team to have a linebackers coach calling some defensive plays. But how is it a good strategy to have your defensive coordinator call all 1st and 2nd-down plays, then let someone else call all 3rd downs?
Hopefully, the staff figures out a better approach to their defense, because the current strategy isn’t working and could get everyone fired if it keeps up.