The NFL’s two worst teams from 2019 are getting ready to play each other this week. The last time the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Football Team faced off was in 2016, in London of all places, but they also met at the top of the 2020 NFL Draft order.
As it happens, both teams had the same player at the top of their board, and it was the player the Bengals took right before Washington.
Washington head coach Ron Rivera said this week that if the Bengals hadn’t selected Joe Burrow with the first-overall pick, his new team was focused on taking him over Chase Young, whom the team drafted after Burrow was taken off the board.
“We feel like championships are won by playing good defense,” Rivera said. “We felt pretty strongly about him [Young]. The only other option we felt was a viable one for us was [Joe] Burrow and obviously he was taken by Cincinnati. We think Joe is the full package. We really do. We think Chase is the full package. Depending on what Cincinnati did, that’s what we were going to do. The opposite.”
Cincinnati never had any legitimate plans to do the opposite, as Rivera calls it, as Burrow became a lock for the Bengals even before his historic season at LSU was finished. But if Burrow was somehow not taken by the Bengals, then he would’ve been drafted by the team that drafted Dwayne Haskins, the quarterback that beat Burrow for the Ohio State starting job, just a year prior. That’s how impressed Washington was with Burrow, and Rivera remains impressed with Burrow after the rookie’s first nine games in the NFL.
“Just thinking back to the stuff I remember in terms of scouting him, he’s legit,” Rivera said of Burrow. “He’s the real deal too, he really is. He’s just going to continue to grow and his team will continue to get better as he gets better.”
Of course, Haskins is now riding the bench and Burrow and Young are chasing Rookie of the Year honors for their respective side of the ball. Young has been as good as you could expect a rookie edge rusher to be, but it’s interesting that Washington only wanted Burrow at quarterback and not one of Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa. Maybe if they chose either of those two, they would’ve been better off for the future.
As Cincinnati knows, the right quarterback makes a difference, and the Bengals just happened to have first dibs on him.