The Bengals are an organization with more than their fair share of problems. Again. It’s a perpetual state of malaise that has permeated the last twenty-plus years. Shocked? Of course not. You already knew that.
So it was no surprise when ESPN announced that the Bengals finished dead last out of 122 sports teams according to their recent fan survey. Our own Nate gave some excellent analysis on one reason why our Queen City Kitties got that ranking, and Bill has already commented on the team’s laughable response in the latest “Who Dey Perspective,” piece. “The Jack Brennan Comedy Hour” as I like to call it.
But I’m not writing to delve into the frailties of the organization, its antiquated structure, or the Brown family. They’re obvious, and frankly they’ve been an overly easy targets for years now. If you are looking for it that kind of input is easily found anywhere you turn, with Boomer Esiason being the most recent talking head to urinate in their proverbial corn flakes.
While Brown’s ways are certainly to blame for a lot of the failures here, and he is defiant and stubborn in avoiding these facts, the problems don’t end there. The fact is that there is a plentiful lack of leadership at multiple levels within the organization. This Flying Dutchman of an organization floats aimlessly down the doldrums of mediocrity with no one at the helm and no one on deck either.
The problems with this organization go further than Mike Brown.
It occurs to me that the core issue here is not the void in good leadership upstairs, but rather, a void in leadership downstairs. There are no field generals, no staunch lieutenants, no fiery dictators or angry and implacable preachers of the football gods in the locker room to will others to victory. We have no George Pattons, and we haven’t for years.
Brown’s coaches have been cowering yes men. David Shula, Bruce Coslet, and Dick Lebeau were not “in demand” coaching phenoms, but were practical choices. Meaning they were willing to coach in absolute subservience. They were all the anti-Sam Wyche.
After years of abject failure with these weaklings, Marvin Lewis came to town. He arrived with a fantastic resume, and the appearance of a strong personality. He won us all over with his charisma and charm. After a playoff berth in his third season we were willing to give him the keys to the kingdom.
But let’s be frank; he is not a strong-willed coach either. His occasional outbursts haven’t outweighed the inconsistent manner in which he treats his players and the way he’s placated the prima donnas or accepted criminal behavior. He doesn’t have the blue collar grit of a Bill Cowher or Mike Tomlin, nor does he have the fire of a Sam Wyche or Brian Billick. Of all the coaches on the team, Mike Zimmer is the only one that seems to exude any of these qualities.
It’s the same with the players. The leaders in the locker room and the guys who get the press are never the same here. The “leaders” the Bengals have had in recent years have been the dominant personalities, but those personalities have not had team goals listed ahead of their own. Chad Ochocinco, Corey Dillon, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh come immediately to mind.
The Colts have Peyton Manning. The Pats have Tom Brady. The Ravens have Ray Lewis. Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer could never come close to those guys in terms of leadership. The Ocho is a bipolar attention whore and Palmer is too meek to lead anyone.
“I don’t think the Bengals quarterback is getting ripped enough for his Houdini Act. Let’s just call it like it is: Carson Palmer has quit on the Cincinnati Bengals.
I understand that he’s frustrated with losing and the Bengals’ frugal and wacky ways. I get it. He’s angry that Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis have turned a blind eye to troublemakers and selfish players who are counterproductive to winning. But Palmer needed to change the culture, figuratively grab Brown and Lewis by the throat years ago and demand changes. That’s what Peyton Manning would’ve done.”
He had equally well-deserved criticism for the Ocho:
“He’d rather ride a bull than catch a pass. Clown.”
The good news is that while Mike Brown isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, there are positive signs to point to from the “downstairs” area.
For one thing, Marvin Lewis is clearly less patient than he used to be. He has fought for more control of the organization, and has made it clear that Carson Palmer’s tantrums and Chad’s whining aren’t going to be tolerated. My personal read is that he’s grown exasperated by the antics and is ready to cut ties with any player that won’t shut up and play.
Other coaches, like the new blood in Jay Gruden on James Urban, as well as QB coach Ken Zampese are quoted as saying they are excited about working with young, hungry players.
And then there’s Mike Zimmer, who’s no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is mentality has saved the Bengals more than a few times already, and given them their best 3-year defensive run in decades.
Plus, there’s a new breed of player in the locker room. Andrew Whitworth, Cedric Benson (assuming he’s back) and Domata Peko are outspoken in the right way, willing to step up and speak up, pushing the stable of talented and anxious youngsters like Jerome Simpson, Andre Smith, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Michael Johnson.
“I think he will re-up in Cincinnati and the Bengals’ running game will be revived,” Schein wrote. Our own Number 1 also made the point that Ced can lead the Bengals in his post earlier this week.
Then there’s Andy Dalton. The heir apparent at QB also comes with a well-earned reputation for firebrand leadership and finding a way to win.
The fact is that this team does have significant reserves of young talent. Leon Hall, Rey Maualuga, Johnson, Atkins, and Dunlap have bright futures on the defense. Simpson, Smith, TE Jermaine Gresham, RB Bernard Scott and WR’s A.J. Green and Jordan Shipley do the same for the offense. There are enough pieces for this team to win next season.
All they need is to remove those poisonous elements still on the roster, and let the new breed of leadership emerge.