Cincinnati Bengals: Three New Year's Resolutions For 2015
1. Fortify the O-Line
“A quarterback who can never win big games” used to refer to Tony Romo, until the Dallas Cowboys’ front office committed to the run by investing in their big uglies. The offensive line is the first and most critical element in the chain reaction of the play. They make cable Rob Lowe look like DIRECTV Rob Lowe and they do it for the quarterback, the running backs, everyone else on the field and on the sidelines. That’s why Tony Romo, Demarco Murray, and Dez Bryant all showered their front five with Air Jordans, iMacs, and Louis Vutton luggage this season, while the Bengals’ just gets showered with compliments from Marvin Lewis in the post-game presser.
To be fair, the Bengals do have a solid offensive line. According to Cold Hard Football Facts’ Offensive Hog Index, which rates team based on a combination of Yards per Attempt, Negative Pass Play Percentage, and Third Down Success rate, Cincinnati’s O-line was ranked 12th this year. Not that there’s anything wrong with that - unless you pair it with a QB who’s ranked 18th in the Real Quarterback Rating. The Bengals can succeed with a QB who is not in the Top 5, but then the offensive line needs to be absolutely elite. Not just “trending-upward-great” – like “AJ-Green-buying-everyone-10,000-gallon-saltwater-fish-tanks” great. You could have an all-star receiving corps of Jordy Nelson, Odell Beckham Jr, and Antonio Brown all downfield, flailing their arms towards the sky like they’re waving in 747s, but if your quarterback feels pressure - either real or perceived – the play will be for no-gain at best. (Especially if your quarterback sometimes sees dead people, but that’s beside the point).
We’ve got some good cornerstones out there on the O-line, but the real challenge is that maintaining the front five requires about eight. The physicality and nature of the position lends itself to these guys missing more games than meals. So, let’s resolve to throw money at Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler and then build from there to make these positions the priority that they should be for our team.
2. Make adjustments at halftime – because the other team will
Not sure why Old Spice didn’t hire the Bengals instead of Wes Welker, because if anyone truly embodies the spirit of taking a 40 minute shower and missing the second half of the game, it’s our coaching staff in the post-season.
In our last four playoff appearances, Cincinnati has been outscored 57-6 and hasn’t scored a touchdown after halftime. Against Indianapolis, we were down after the second quarter, but instead of halftime providing us with a much-needed jolt, we reverted to the same things that had proven not to work in the first half of the game.
Sometimes, I watch our games in awe and surprise of the sheer brilliance in coaching decisions – like in the game against Denver where we clinched the playoff berth in the first place. Other times, I feel like I’m in Vegas with a drunk buddy at a blackjack table who keeps repeating bad behavior and insisting that their luck is going to change because they have “a system.” I don’t want to be with my drunk buddy in Vegas. I just want to know what buffalo wings taste like during the second week in January, while I’m still watching my team.
3. Stop serving as the NFL’s farm team for its coaching staff
Usually when teams change their offensive and defensive coordinators simultaneously, it’s due to a serious dumpster fire of a season, not because they were doing everything right. It’s even rarer that teams can weather that level of organizational change and still make the playoffs. Yet even having lost both Jay Gruden to Washington and Mike Zimmer to Minnesota, we returned to the post-season under a different staff. Defensive backs coach, Vance Joseph, is the latest to be targeted by the Denver Broncos, but fortunately, it looks like that attempt is getting blocked like a Detroit Lions’ kicker.
I’m glad to see the Bengals’ front office show the NFL some inflated balls and protect the asset we have in Joseph. For 2015, let’s resolve to stop throwing going away parties for key members of our coaching staff and instead, build the chemistry we need to take us into February of 2016.