On this date, three years ago, the Cincinnati Bengals held the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Before we dive into it, let’s take a nice (painful) stroll back to the 2019 season.
In Zac Taylor’s first season as the newest Head Coach, Cincinnati went a whopping 2-14 on the season.
The team started the year 0-11 and didn’t pick its first win until Week 13, at home, against Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.
Fast-forward to the NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins were interested in trading up to take Joe Burrow, but the Bengals had been locked on the 2019 Heisman winner for months.
Heisman Moment pic.twitter.com/V2Yw0bjiBT— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 7, 2019
The Bengals’ top guy had just led LSU to a 15-0 record and a National Championship over Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers.
He finished the historic season with 5,671 passing yards, 60 touchdowns, a 76.3 completion percentage, and six interceptions.
Joe Burrow exits LSU with one of the greatest single-seasons in CFB history:— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 14, 2020
2020 CFP title
2019 Heisman winner
CFB record holder for most passing TDs in a season
2nd undefeated season in LSU history
Snaps Clemson’s 29-game winning streak pic.twitter.com/FSpcOlrhiw
As Roger Goodell announced the Bengals’ selection in his basement, a new era had truly just begun in Cincinnati.
Joe Burrow’s rookie season was one of the most unique, and not in the best of ways.
With COVID crippling the country, the rookie’s summer leading up to Week 1 looked much different with virtual meetings and no preseason.
In just nine and a half games, Burrow posted 2,688 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, and five interceptions before going down against Washington with the gruesome knee injury.
Burrow tore his ACL and MCL that afternoon and had season-ending knee surgery.
Head Coach Zac Taylor told reporters that he “expects him to make a full recovery”, but he did not speculate that Burrow would be ready for Week 1 of the 2021 season.
If there was one thing the Bengals and Cincinnati learned about their new franchise quarterback in 2020, it was his toughness and no-quit mindset.
That same mindset pushed him through surgery and rehab, and just like that, Burrow was back on the field for the first time since going down, against the Dolphins in the final preseason game of 2021.
After destroying his knee in the previous season, Burrow went on to tally 4,611 passing yards, 34 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.
Burrow also led the Bengals to the playoffs and snapped a 30+ playoff win drought against the Las Vegas Raiders.
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 31 YEARS IT'S TIME TO CELEBRATE A PLAYOFF WIN IN CINCY @Bengals pic.twitter.com/d9PScqBz8U— NFL (@NFL) January 16, 2022
But it didn’t stop there. Cincinnati went to Tennessee and defeated the Titans, headed to Kansas City, and took down the Chiefs crowning them AFC Champions.
MCPHERSON FOR THE AFC CHAMPIONSHIP— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) January 30, 2022
THE BENGALS ARE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL.
And just like that, after going down just a year before, Burrow had led the Bengals to a Super Bowl appearance against the Los Angeles Rams.
After the historic season, Burrow was named the Comeback Player of the Year and had inserted the Bengals as one of the best teams in the league.
But, in 2022 he and the Bengals made sure to prove that it wasn’t a fluke.
Burrow and the Bengals were crowned back-to-back AFC North Champions and found themselves hosting another playoff game in the Jungle.
The team went on to appear in back-to-back AFC Championship games and came up just short of returning to the Super Bowl.
Cincinnati might not have punched its ticket to the Super Bowl in 2022, but the franchise proved it was for real and will be for years to come.
Obviously, Joe Burrow is not the only reason why the Bengals have had recent success.
The team drafted guys like Tee Higgins, Logan Wilson, Ja’Marr Chase, Cam Taylor-Britt and others and also spent a massive amount of money in free agency signing guys like Trey Hendrickson, DJ Reader, Mike Hilton, Chidobe Awuzie, Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and others as well.
Duke Tobin and his staff have done a stellar job surrounding Joe Burrow with the pieces needed to be successful.
Zac Taylor and his staff have created a winning culture in the locker room and executed with the pieces they were given.
This has been a full revival of the Cincinnati Bengals franchise, from top to bottom.
But, it all started three years ago today, drafting Joe Burrow with the first overall pick in 2020.