First off, let me preface this post by giving a little background on where this is coming from. I started writing a post after we fell to 2-4 on the season, and it was titled "Stick a Fork in Them...". I never got around to finishing it because the office's workload dramatically picked up, and to be honest, I wasn't ready to write a eulogy just 1/3 of the way into the season. Six games into the season and we had yet to get to enjoy a single game; even the wins were just pure crap.
Two weeks later, and the Bengals are deep in the hole and the dirt has been poured over the the casket on the 2010 season. Thank you Mike Brown for not allowing the team's fans to enjoy one fucking game of the NFL season this year. Excuse my language, but you are an asshole.
First of all, I never thought we would be 2-6 heading into week 10 of the season (6-2 was realistic). If it would provide a good payout, I'd say bet that we are going to be 2-7 after this weekend. Unfortunately, you would lose more than you would get back by placing that bet.
Personally, this has to be the worse letdown of a Bengals team since 1988 after the wife beater dropped the game winning INT with 40 seconds left on the clock. At least in the 90's and early 2000's until Marvin showed up, you knew that the team really sucked going into the season.
This team was one of the deepest and best teams on paper that has been fielded by Marvin Lewis. I didn't buy into the media hype that TO would be a distraction that would cause this team to lose (he hasn't- he has been an asset if anything, and I amazingly agree with almost everything that has come out that man's mouth so far); that this team has never had back to back playoff seasons and wouldn't be able to do it again this year (they never swept the AFC North either, but pulled that one off last year); that Carson Palmer's career is over (I still don't believe his issues are physical as the media is now claiming); or that the schedule was too hard (this schedule is no harder than last year's). Somehow the wheels feel off even before the bus got moving without any major injuries like loosing 4/5 of the OL in 2006 & 2007. So what the hell happened and where do we go from here?
What the Hell Happened?
1. In contrast to the media's portrayal, Bien has written several times about the fact that this team did not spend much money in the free agency, excluding the Bryant fiasco of course. However, I don't think it is not a question about how much we spent, but rather what we failed to spend it on.
Although strip clubs and football do go together, I am firm believer that making it rain cannot buy you a championship (e.g. the Redskins or Cowboys) however, money well spent can get your foot in the door. They invested primarily in WR & DB depth in FA, both big needs, unfortunately only one of these moves has really contributed with Bryant, Jones & Wilson all falling victims of injuries. Then they went TE, DE, WR, CB, DT, & LB with their picks in the first four rounds. They seriously failed to address their two main needs in the offseason: OL & DL (DL rookies typically take a year before they produce so they just added good depth in those spots). Their omissions started the cracks in the foundation that lead to their losing record.
Ironically, the two polar opposites, Jerry Jones & Mike Brown, have fallen victim to the same logic: getting guys that can put points on the board wins you games. Unfortunately, it doesn't. At its basic level, football is a very simple game in that like Architecture you need a solid foundation in place to build out from. Everything else is just eye candy. Mikey Boy has never understood this, and it is why the offense has to throw on 3rd & 2 rather than going Pelosi on their opponents and stuffing it down their throats.
As of right now teams like the Jets, Titans, Ravens & the Giants have the foundation, talent in the skills positions, and coaching in place that should allow them to make a serious attempt to push deep in the playoffs. The Pats, Steelers, Dolphins, Packers, and West Coast teams are not as good as their record indicates. I like the Packers in the NFC, but I think their porous OL may be their Achilles heel once they get in the postseason. I would be really surprised if they make it pass the NFC Championship.
The Bengals have the talent, but the foundation is not as solid as it needs to be and the offensive coaching is incestuous at best. The Bengals chose to ignore rather then address these needs, and look where it got us. We can't run the ball at will and Palmer gets hit what seems like almost every other pass due to the constant pressure. The only bright side of the excessive pressure is that we get some key third down conversions due to a stupid penalty. Bratkowski is responsible for some of this because of his predictable play calling, but the LG & RT spots are not doing their jobs in protecting the QB. This is what I believe is Palmer's problem, not his elbow. Like I stated after the draft, I feel we would have been much better off trading up for Pouncey or Iupati rather than waiting for a TE that we aren't even using.
2. Marvin's contract dispute is having an effect on this team that the media is unwilling to report. Since week one of the preseason, this team has been flat. Ever since I was a kid, it has always seemed that the Bengals just play flat. But this year it is as if someone has dropped Zoloft in the Gatorade. There has been no sense of urgency, emotion, or pride- except when they get down by 21 points. Three & out? No big deal we have next drive to try again... every damn week. I will give them credit, once they get down by a insurmountable margin they wake up and play their asses for a quarter or two, but it is always too late.
The coaches are obviously not having an impact on motivating them until "pride" becomes a factor from getting their asses handed to them on the field. I believe this is an indication that we have a lame duck situation in the locker room since players feed off the coaches. Since Marvin has given up so has the players. This leads me to believe that Marvin knew he was gone at the beginning of the season, regardless if we had won the Super Bowl or go 2-14 again. So while we were celebrating the re-signing of Zimmer to a three year contract, it may have been the nail in coffin for Lewis and this season.
3. Bob f'n Bratkowski. We all talked about how he would be a liability to this team leading up to the season. I never imaged how his breadth of incompetence would be able to take down a team, but it has. We have beaten this dead horse enough, but for one last time the guy has no idea about the following:
1. Scheming against a Cover 2.
2. Scheming to allow your best WR beat double coverage. Instead we just use him as bait. A word out to Chad for a moment: Chad, I feel your pain & I hope the person you punched at halftime during the 2005 playoff game was Bratkowski. Please land a good one in there sometime this season for us fans, you deserve it. I will throw in dinner for two to Montgomery Inn.
3. Using one of the top receiving college TE's in the passing game. For some reason, I believe JP Foschi and Dan Coats ran down field more last year than Gresham has done all season so far.
4. Providing a passing tree that gets people running routes other than 5 yard hitches. Both game ending INT's thrown against the Bucs & Dolphins, TO was the only route going beyond the first down marker. Everyone else is just standing 5-6 yards downfield looking back at Palmer. Really? Who the hell calls crap like that?
5. Using contraception. Easter egg! Just checking if your reading. But seriously Bob please use it. We don't need anymore dumb-asses like you running around we have more than enough already.
6. Understanding the success of the running game requires mixing it with the pass.
7. Comprehending that when a team puts 8 in the box and you can't move the football by running it; try something else to mix it up before waiting until the critical 3rd & 13.
8. When you have 5 three & outs in a row, what you are running is not working. Change it.
9. How many more can we add to this list?
Where do we go from here?
1. Marvin is done. Most likely the 24 hr media hyperbole will blame his release on his poor performance since it sticks with their narrative. But his release will be a result of loosing the interior power struggle for more control of the team. The next coach to take over is not getting it anytime soon either.
Therefore, we can just remove top quality guys like Gruden, Cowher, etc. from even being considered since they will want control of their staff and roster. I can just see the interview going like this:
MB: Well Bill I hope you enjoyed the tour, what is it that you are looking for?
BC: Mike, as head coach, I would expect the respect to be able to bring in my own staff, scouting department, run the organization like a professional organization, and have final say of the rost...
MB: Well Bill thanks for coming in, it was delightful to see you again. Good luck with your search and god bless.
If Lewis couldn't have it why would Chuckie? Unless of course Mike Brown is a racist- which I have to assume he is no Marge Schott. At this point, it appears that Zimmer has the best odds of being the head coach next season. My worst fear is that Bratkowski somehow dodges the bullets, and survives to be the OC next season since he is a life long friend of Zimmer's. If that happens, I am throwing in the towel. I cannot support a team with that moron a part of it any longer.
2. We most likely will lose a significant number of key free agents since Mike may resort to his old habits and be too cheap to reinvest in what they have groomed over the past couple of seasons: Joseph, Hall, Benson, Cook, etc. Worse case, we go back to the talent level of 1993; best case 2003. This is coming from the guy that said 2011 was going to be their year to be serious contenders, but it is going to take years to recover from this disaster if they let people walk out the door.
It is absolutely amazing what really poor leadership at the top of an organization will do for you.