The Cincinnati Bengals are good. Actually, no. They’re not good. They’re great. In fact, they are, along with the Chiefs and a couple of other teams, at the top of the NFL pyramid.
The Bengals are primed to win the franchise’s first Super Bowl. They have an elite quarterback, one of the best, if not the best, group of wide receivers in the league, an improved offensive line, a solid defense, and great coaches. They spend money in free agency, but not recklessly. They draft well.
The Bengals aren’t backing their way into the postseason and winning games with fluke calls or with any other weird circumstance. They’re winning the right way and setting themselves up for sustained success.
Put it this way: the Bengals are closer to having a New England Patriots-style dynasty than they are to being who they were in the ‘90s.
If you were a fan of this team in the ‘90s or before, you know how big of a deal that statement is.
If you weren’t, here’s a history lesson.
First, let me say this.....
All fans should be made to feel welcome. There is no prerequisite to being a fan of any team. You’ve been here since 1967? Great, grab a beer and enjoy the game! You became a fan 20 minutes ago because Joe Burrow is just the coolest guy? Awesome, I’ll show you where the snacks are.
There is no reason a new fan should be made to feel like less of a fan just because they didn’t suffer through the ‘90s, now known as the “dead era.”
All are welcome. The more, the merrier!
Now, if you didn’t know...
The Bengals used to be the laughingstock of the NFL. After their divisional round loss to the (at the time) Los Angeles Raiders on January 13, 1991, things took a sharp turn for Cincinnati. Mike Brown, son of the legendary coach and founder Paul Brown, took over and kicked off a new decade with a staggering amount of ineptitude.
The team won just 55 games over the next 12 seasons. In that period of time, they had six first-round draft picks that were selected in the top five, if that gives you a better idea of how bad they were.
They were a joke and Mike Brown was the punchline. He was probably one of the most hated men in Southwest Ohio.
Yeah, I know, but hear me out.
Lewis doesn’t get enough credit for what he did in Cincinnati. He turned a franchise around after a decade of being terrible and made them relevant again. In his 16 seasons, the Bengals went to the playoffs seven times, including five years in a row (‘11 to ‘15). He didn’t win any of those games, but he was there.
He also had to completely rebuild the roster. Twice.
He did it with Carson Palmer very early in his career and then did it again with Andy Dalton, finding success with both quarterbacks.
He didn’t win any playoff games, but he did build the foundation on which the Bengals are built today.
Now you’re caught up.....
It seems like it was so long ago and in a place very far away that the Bengals were an afterthought to the rest of the NFL. Mike Brown isn’t the villain he used to be. Maybe he doesn’t have as much control as he used to. Maybe his daughter and son-in-law are now calling all the shots. We don’t know, and we won’t know. Those discussions are had behind closed doors.
What we do know is there was once a website called MikeBrownSucks.com. It still exists. You can check it out. They made all kinds of waves when they first came around with news coverage. I remember one time they had a plane fly over training camp carrying a banner that talked about how much Mike Brown sucked.
There’s not much of a need for that anymore.
It all seems like a distant nightmare that took place in an alternate universe. For those of us that lived it, live it up! This is the right time to be a Bengals fan! For those of you who came after, enjoy it! Success in the NFL can be fleeting.
As we approach the draft, here are some Star Wars-themed thoughts..... for some reason....
- Luke - Joe Burrow absolutely represented A New Hope. An Ohio kid, he came in to Cincinnati and after losing his hand (knee), bounced back to bring balance back to the force (we’re ignoring the newest trilogy where Luke becomes a hermit who drinks green milk straight from the tap).
- Han - He comes off as a scruffy-looking Nerf herder, but Luke doesn’t save the day without Han. I think we’ll say that’s Ja’Marr Chase. Burrow and Chase have a well-documented relationship, and that’s partially the reason why they’ve been able to have so much success! Burrow doesn’t have a sister, so this Han will truly be going solo.
Leia - Come on. You know it’s Katie Blackburn. She’s (likely) running the whole show and doing a great job! She’s the only female member of the NFL Competition Committee, which makes me think of
PrincessGeneral Leia Organa.
- Chewbacca - Who is Han’s best friend and is instrumental in Luke’s success? Tee Higgins is, that’s who! The 6’5” wide receiver is hopefully going to be signing an extension soon, keeping the dynamic duo of weapons together for a long time.
- Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness)- “If you strike me down down, I will become more powerful than you can ever imagine,” Obi-Wan, or should we say Paul Brown? I don’t know, this one’s kinda tough.
- Yoda - “Run, run, run, jump! I can be your backpack while you run!,” Darrin Simmons has been coaching in the NFL for 26 years (that’s Yoda age in the NFL), and 21 years for the Bengals. Taylor was 13 when Simmons started in the league.
- Darth Vader - It has to be the Steelers. I know the Ravens are possibly the Bengals’ biggest competition in the division, depending on what happens with Lamar Jackson, but the Steelers have a history with the Bengals unlike any other team in recent history.
- The Emperor - Well this has to be Roger Goodell. He’s just an all-around unpopular guy. He embodies the movement that left Cincinnati having to deal with a coin flip after the Monday Night Football game was canceled. He doesn’t have the awesome helmet or black armor that Vader has. What he does have, though, is a lot of
- C-3PO - This gold droid is mostly useless and does a lot of complaining and odds calculating. He’s basically a nerd. He does important work, though, especially when paired with his other robot friend. We’re going to say this guy is Dru Chrisman. He’s important, mainly because he’s the holder for.....
- R2-D2 - This guy is a star. He wins battles by doing the right thing at the right time, and he doesn’t even have lines. Our R2-D2 says things like, “I guess we’re going to the AFC Championship game!” It’s Evan McPherson.
- Boba Fett - We’re strictly talking about the Fett from the original trilogy for sure.... He was a steely-eyed missile man and, before he was knocked into the Sarlacc pit, was the only dude who bested Han Solo.
He’s Myles Garrett, also a bounty hunter of sorts.
- Admiral Ackbar - Every great rebellion needs a leader, just like every great football team needs a great coach. Zac Taylor doesn’t look like the child of a human and a catfish, but he is a great leader and coach.
You say you want some non-OG trilogy guys? Fine.
- The Mandalorian - You know it’s Sam Hubbard. He’s a certified graduate of the B.A. Baracus School of Badassery. He can do a little bit of everything, and he does most of it very well!
- Kylo Ren - He was a bad guy. Then we thought he was a good guy, but he was still bad. Then he was a good guy. What a character arch. He’s Mike Brown.
- Padmé - She did important things. She fought in some tough battles. Then she died of.... (checking notes).... sadness. Marvin Lewis, I think.
- Darth Maul - He’s scary looking, but he’s not been around for a very long time. Could be Lamar Jackson?
And Finally, it’s....
- Jar Jar Binks - The Cleveland Browns.
So what happens now?
First, we see if Disney sends me a cease and desist letter in the mail. Then we draft. The Bengals have done a nice job of filling out the holes on the roster, which means they can kinda do what they want in the draft. Outside of quarterback, wide receiver, or special teams, anything is on the table when they go on the clock next Thursday night.
It’s an exciting time, and you should be happy about that. Remember, we’re in the Bengals’ glory days, right now. That’s kinda like living when the original Star Wars trilogy came out. Be thankful, because we could be in the prequel or sequel trilogy days.
In hind site, this should have come out on May 4.