If your name rhymes with Spike Scorpio and you work for NBC Sports, don’t read beyond this sentence.
The Cincinnati Bengals are the perfect team to handle the chaos that comes with taking Joe Burrow first overall.
Are the Bengals good at anything? Sure they are; just not in the areas that make it easy to attract new fans or appease the media. Old narratives are easy to latch onto when your attention has to accompany 31 other teams, but Cincinnati’s stubborn-natured brass makes them the ideal organization to handle the hoopla of having the first pick in the NFL Draft as much as it makes them the punchline for several other jabs.
Paul Brown Stadium acts as if it is Fort Knox. It’s an impenetrable fortress when the enemy is verbal pressure. To say that the other 31 teams are easily susceptible to public duress when it comes to personnel decisions isn’t true at all, but the Bengals are the golden child of keeping the noise out. Their unwavering values and principles stem from the top in Mike Brown, and the transition to the Blackburns, Katie and Troy, has shown that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Not only can they not be influenced by factors outside of their walls, they’re impossible to fish useful information from.
When your organizational culture exudes so much consistency—for better or worse—you earn a reputation of being predictable. At least, you should’ve from those with the biggest audiences.
This is why the Bengals are the last team to let negative press stop them from, well, being the Bengals. Having the first pick in the draft, the 11th pick, or the 21st pick doesn’t change the way they approach things. Naturally, being in this position attracts more outside chatter if the right stories are twisted hard enough.
That commotion is falling on deaf ears inside 1 Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH, as it normally does for all franchises in this position. Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com spoke with Bill Polian and other former NFL executives about the spread of misinformation and the actual communication that teams and owners partake in.
“In the world of the draft industrial complex these days, you never know where stuff is coming from and in my experience about 98 percent of it is wrong. Whether it’s evaluation of players or people speaking about the state of franchises,” Polian says. “If you’re up there making a pick, the best thing to do is to ignore it all. Don’t even engage with it. Do what you have to do to make the right choice for your team and not anyone else. Just do it. The rest is just noise and doesn’t count.”
The noise, of course, gets harder to remain ignorant towards the more it is regurgitated. For the better part of the last month, several talking heads have pushed every angle of the bullet point titled “the Bengals don’t care about winning”. No matter how much truth is in that statement, the stigma it creates spreads like a virus if no antibiotic is utilized to counter it. Polian did his best to provide that.
Editor’s note: Someone much smarter than this writer has informed him that antibiotics do not in fact stop viruses. Please carry on.
“Whoever visits the Bengals, I’m sure Mike and Katie and Troy (Blackburn) will point out the recent success they’ve have had and go from there,” Polian says. ”Usually you can find agents’ fingerprints all over these things. Both agents who represent a particular player or agents who are trying to denigrate a particular player so they can boost their guy’s stock. And of course the agents always have fellow travelers in the media.”
None of this is even a topic if the Bengals don’t have the one and only chance to draft Joe Burrow: the anointed one, the guy everyone wants to succeed. The idea of the next best thing having to start his career in a place that hasn’t experienced any substantial success in a generation’s time is frightening to the masses, clearly.
What the media thinks about Burrow’s fit with Cincinnati pales in comparison to how Burrow himself thinks of the fit. It’d be a shame if Jimmy Burrow and head coach Zac Taylor already had a relationship long before Jimmy’s son became the favorite to be the first pick in the draft. According to SI.com’s Albert Breer, that is exactly the case.
Back in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, Cincy coach Zac Taylor mentioned to me that he and Jimmy Burrow, Joe’s dad, became familiar with each other when they were both on the recruiting trail—the elder Burrow as Ohio University’s defensive coordinator and Taylor as the University of Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator. They had a natural connection too, that ran through Nebraska. Jimmy Burrow played there, coached there and had two sons who played there. Taylor, meanwhile, was the quarterback in Lincoln a couple years after Burrow left.
Only the Bengals can convince Joe and his family that they are the right fit for him. The fact that a seemingly productive relationship based on mutual experiences already exists will only accelerate the process. Taylor having as high of an opinion on the 23-year old quarterback certainly doesn’t hurt either.
“He’s a winner,” Taylor said of Burrow during our talk. “You can tell that he leads the guys around him, you can tell the effect he’s had on the whole state. Those are intangibles that you can’t coach. He set all the accuracy records, all the great things he did in the SEC this year—this didn’t happen by accident. He’s always in great body position to throw the ball, and he can extend plays when necessary. There are certainly a lot of traits that translate well to the NFL.”
It seems as if the noise that means anything is saying much different things than what’s being spread on Twitter. Sure, Burrow comes from a football family, but no matter how much everyone outside of Cincinnati wants him to pull an Eli Manning, those efforts will go to waste.
Joe Burrow will not sabotage his chances of becoming the No. 1 pick in the draft because of exterior agendas designed to benefit others. And the Bengals do hear your cries if you scream loud enough, but like a mountain in the face of a tornado, they will not budge. This time, it’s for the better.