The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the best quarterbacks in the league. It is still incredible that Joe Burrow has made that statement such a factual statement. He has shown he is a franchise lifting player like the rest of the great quarterbacks in the league.
Now, after taking the Bengals to their third Super Bowl in franchise history, he is being recognized for his status as one of the best. Chris Simms has ranked him ahead of some of the biggest names on his podcast Chris Simms Unbuttoned where he has been counting down the top 40 quarterbacks.
Simms has Burrow ranked at No. 4 behind Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen (in that order). We can argue semantics all we want, but these four names are probably the best four quarterbacks for the next decade, and Burrow could easily make a move even higher eventually based on his reasoning for placing these guys at the top.
“They’ve gone to another level,” Simms said. “Is (Burrow) as smart as Rodgers yet? No, but he’s still really smart. The big thing is his ability to do things when things aren’t perfect with the offense...
“Aggressive, those four quarterbacks, it’s never, ‘Oh, he’s kind of open, I’ll take the check down.’ Never. It’s always aggressive. It puts tremendous pressure on the defense and they make you defend the whole field.”
Aggressive is a good way of describing what makes Burrow and this offense special. That is one of the reasons he was able to routinely beat one of the most common coverages in the NFL, according to Doug Farrar of Touchdown Wire.
Throwing a single deep safety in zone coverage against Burrow and the Bengals was generally a fool’s errand in 2021 — against Cover-3, he completed 123 of 165 passes for 1,471 yards, 826 air yards, 10 touchdowns, three interceptions, a passer rating of 114.0, and an ANY/A of 8.0. Burrow’s touchdowns and passer rating against Cover-3 led the league.
The Bengals are a heavy 3×1 team, but they also like to befuddle defenses in 2×2 sets — and creating openings against zone defenses out of those sets. They also have receivers — such as Tee Higgins in this case — who can blow up double coverage. On this 29-yard touchdown pass against the Chargers in Week 13, cornerback Michael Davis breaks late on Higgins’ vertical route, safety Nasir Adderley is a step late to the ball, and that’s all Burrow and Higgins need.
Burrow has shown he is one of the most intelligent passers in the NFL, but above that he knows he can trust his weapons. When you have players like Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Ja’Marr Chase running down the field, sometimes it is just a matter of finding the mismatch or keeping the safety in the middle of the field. Of course, the threat of that vertical attack really opens things up when you run deep out routes or comebacks in the unoccupied area underneath the deep zones as well.
As the Bengals 2021 season gets put under the microscope more and more, it is clear this team earned its success. It is unsurprising that Burrow is tied to plenty of that as well. Now that he should have an upgraded offensive line, it seems like the sky could be the limit.