It was the battle of Ohio to open week 2 of the NFL season as the Browns hosted Joe Burrow and the Bengals. This match up was about much more than who would come out on top.
Trying to talk about the worst-run organisation in the NFL is difficult and at the same time fine.
I get a good feeling well up inside of me whenever I call the Bengals morons or inept, because I know I am right. It is a good feeling when a man knows that he is right.
I cast my mind back to the 2016 Wild Card game between the Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was held in awful weather, a rainstorm and was very low scoring. The game was taking place in Cincinnati, as they had beaten out the 10-6 Steelers with a fine 11-5 record of their own.
Andy Dalton, the franchise quarterback was injured and the back-up AJ McCarron was in and he had guided the Bengals, through all the rain and animosity between the historic rivalry of the two franchises to a 16-15 lead with less than a minute to go.
Then the Bengals managed to fumble the football and hand it back to the Steelers when all the needed to do was chew clock. Then Vontaze Burfict tried to kill Antonio Brown on an incomplete passing playing which handed the Steelers a huge penalty. This was then compounded by some other Bengals players attacking one of Pittsburgh’s coaches. Another huge penalty.
This put Pittsburgh into field goal range and they didn’t pass it up, they won 18-16.
Marvin Lewis, the Bengals long serving head-coach had just overseen one of the most awful meltdowns in sporting history.
I remember at the time I had felt very strongly about the game. I ducked into the local bar and drank some beer and kept muttering to myself over and over again about the inherent stupidity of human kind.
Watching the last few moments of that game had been like watching a dozen junkies, squabbling and fighting each other in the aftermath of a hurricane, confused as to whether they were trying to rebuild or loot their own destroyed home.
That was the Cincinnati Bengals. They were fools. It was the worst choke I had ever seen.
That was years ago though and now Marvin Lewis is gone. He couldn’t ever win a playoff game. The Bengals have gone 28 years without winning a playoff game. It’s the worst record of any team in the league.
Much has been said about Marvin Lewis over the years. But most of it is probably true. How he was prone to epic meltdowns, leading to heartbreaking losses and often made totally insane and naive playcalls.
He was there for sixteen years and never won a playoff game. He lost seven playoff games. Whatever. The Bengals went to the playoffs five times in a row from 2011-2015 and got their teeth kicked out each time. Maybe it fried all of their brains like rotten eggs. It has to take its toll. But you can always rebuild?
Then they started to suck and miss the playoffs entirely. You can’t lose a playoff game if you don’t have to play one. Aha.
I remember when he drafted John Ross III ninth overall in 2017 and it was a surprise. Then he went on to catch about four hundred yards of passes over the next two seasons. One of the worst draft picks of my recent memory. He is still there, trying to catch some passes, but he was drafted ninth overall.
He is already a failure. It would take an insane person like Marvin Lewis to draft somebody called John Ross III, because people said he was “quick” and because he ran a fast combine time, over somebody like TJ Watt or Evan Engram, big time players still on the board.
But Marvin Lewis left after last season. And they all said that things were going to change.
They have a new coach called Zac Taylor, seen as something similar to Sean McVay, the brilliant young coach who has taken the LA Rams to the Super Bowl.
But the Bengals are 0-6. They look awful and totally lost.
They lost at home to young Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago, got mauled by the injury ravaged Steelers the week before and also have been beaten by the Bills and the 49ers soundly.
Their biggest problem is in the middle of their rotten heart, which is franchise quarterback Andy Dalton.
If you ever want to make some money, bet against Andy Dalton. Take almost any market that is offered. I do remember a few years ago, sitting in a restaurant in Bangkok I saw for reasons I can’t explain, that the Bengals were favoured against the Broncos “No-Fly Zone”.
My eyes lit up like tail-lights on a road-train. I made a phone-call and soon I got money on huge odds for Denver. Dalton threw three or four picks. The Bengals got nailed. People are ignorant to how bad he can be. But I was no fool. I saw reality and I still do.
He is the worst excuse for a franchise quarterback I have ever known. If he had played for anybody else but the Bengals, he would have been released years ago and would probably be playing in the CFL by now.
But the reason that he has not been, is because nobody cares about the Cincinnati Bengals. The last three years they have gone 6-10, 7-9 and 6-10. They are sort of a phantom franchise, you often forget that they even exist. I can barely remember any of their games from those years, just that I bet against them sometimes and I won every time.
They have AJ Green and Tyler Eifert on their roster. But these guys are just ghosts too, on a ghost ship which is nowhere in the sky. How can you be a star when your team is doomed forever? How can stars exist in a black hole?
I don’t know what to do with the Bengals, nobody cares about them and they suck. That is a terrible combination. There are lots of teams that suck in the NFL that people care about. Like the Raiders and the Browns. But the Bengals are not interesting to anybody except a small part of Ohio.
Their hopes and dreams must lie somewhere in the memory of that rainstorm, lost forever, when they choked so hard against the Steelers 18-16, choked so heart that their very souls snapped and imploded.
Vontaze Burfict has been banned for the entirety of this season for repeated on-field violence. He was one of Marvin Lewis’ favourite players during his spell with the team. An outright dangerous person, toxic for the league. In many ways the very existence of the Bengals is toxic for NFL fans too. It contaminates everything.
Wild Card Round 2016. The scar.
They just lost one more playoff game and it was too much. It happens to the best of us.
Probably the bitterest pill to swallow, is that the closest they had come to winning was without the franchise quarterback. Daltonless. AJ McCarron is in Houston I hear now.
Tear it all down, trade Dalton to the Redskins, go 0-16 and draft Tua Tagovailoa.
They will go 0-16 with Dalton anyway, but then you’d have to pay him to do it for you.