The Cincinnati Bengals and their fans may be in the best spot they have ever been in. The fans finally feel appreciated by a team that had unapologetically done things their way for years. This dramatic shift from the fans was captured in The Athletic’s fan survey:
One of the best parts of doing this survey every year is quantifying the swings in attitude.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) July 14, 2022
Fun to look at this question over three years. Remember, fixing this problem was the primary thrust of the organization off the field the last few years. #WinningMakesBelievers pic.twitter.com/Xl4sfS9Lhj
How did we get to this point? Well it is important to understand why the number started so low.
Going back to the offseason prior to the 2019 season, this team was in the middle of one of its biggest shifts in practically 20 years. It came after several frustrating seasons of watching head coach Marvin Lewis try to finish off the Andy Dalton era strong. The last season of which was especially grueling after Lewis was surprisingly given another season after he was going to be relieved of his duties following the 2017 season.
On top of the product on the field being frustrating to watch, fans were going through a time where Cincinnati had one of the worst social media presences of any NFL team in the NFL.
Before we get to the changes made on the field, it is also important to point out how important Elizabeth Blackburn joining the front office as the Bengals director of strategy and engagement has been. Things like the Ring of Honor, uniform redesigns and just generally making fans feel like they are a part of the process has been massive. There is a reason she is regarded as one of the biggest names under 40 among NFL front offices.
The other thing the front office has done is actually go out and spend in free agency. They aren’t spending tons of guaranteed money still, and they aren’t bringing in top free agents, but long are the days with the team being more concerned with compensatory picks than actually bringing in difference makers.
Now the biggest thing has been this team finding their franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow. They have also started winning in a big way. Ending their playoff drought was a dream on its own, but this team’s improbable trip to the Super Bowl has really reset feelings among the whole fanbase. Not to mention the team actually going out and bringing in quality free agent offensive lineman — which was probably the last qualm fans had with this team over the past decade — has done wonders in the feelings for the Bengals.
This team really saw a shift in philosophy when Zac Taylor was brought on as the head coach. Owner Mike Brown has seemingly stepped away from being the only real decision maker. It has allowed Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin and his daughter Katie Blackburn to be more hands on. They haven’t drastically shifted from their previous philosophy, but it has been enough to put a winning team together quicker than most would have imagined.
The best way to make believers as Paul Dehner Jr. alludes to is winning, and the Bengals look like they will be doing plenty of that for years to come if this front office keeps refueling this team with talented players.