The Bengals need to struggle this season.
As much fun as a 28-point beat down of the Browns would have been to watch on Sunday, I am happy that the Bengals won they way that they did. That they lost momentum. That the running game floundered for a while. Even that they fell behind for awhile.
Sound crazy? Here’s why:
The 2006 Bengals.
After the Lost Decade, Marvin Lewis had changed a lot of things about this team. He was 27-22 in 3 years as head coach. The team had gotten back to the playoffs after a 15 year drought. They were not a mere footnote or a punch line. Fans were half-drunk on the winning. Pundits were predicting a repeat as division champ. Everything seemed to be going right.
It would have been, except for one thing. The players bought the hype too. The team seemed to think that just showing up on the field gave them the win. Then we started getting quotes from T.J. like this: “This doesn’t make sense. We are better than these guys. I can’t understand how we lost today.” They looked like they felt entitled, that they had forgotten that they had to earn wins on the field every week, no matter who the opponent was.
I don’t want this year’s team to think that they are better than anyone. I want them believing that they will have to fight, to earn every inch they get. I want every player showing up to practice knowing that if they don’t leverage every minute on the practice field, in the classroom and in the film room, then they are hurting the team’s chances to win that week. I want them to understand that they all need each other, that it takes all 45 guys in uniform on Sunday doing their job to win.
That is the mindset, the culture I want from this team. Failure can be a tough thing to handle, but success is tougher unless it is met with humility. Struggle will maintain humility. So this year, struggle is a good thing.