I like the ugly wins. They are exactly what I want for the Bengals right now.
The Bills were just as bad as the Bengals last season. Yet they shocked everyone by engineering a pair of spectacular comeback wins to start the year 3-0. The media was talking up what a great story they were. Pundits were speculating just how good they were going to be. And the Bills came into PBS on Sunday as favorite on the road for the first time in several years. They got stunned.
The wins masked the flaws. Now they have to face the fact that all those points they put up in their first 3 games came not solely because they are good, but partly because those defenses were kinda bad. That a good defense held them to 3 points in a half when they decided to break out the whoppin’ stick. That for 30 minutes their defense let Andy Dalton look more like Kenny Anderson than a rookie in his 4th NFL game.
Football guys like to talk about how winning breeds confidence. Sometimes it does. And sometimes it breeds cockiness instead. Especially in a young team. (See also: 2006 Bengals.)
The Bengals have nothing to feel cocky about. They cannot hide from the fact that they have trailed in every game. They know that they have gone through long stretches of completely ineffectiveness on offense in every game. The stack of bad tape is as tall as the stack of good tape. They have warts, and everyone sees them.
I want the Bengals keenly aware that they have plenty of work to do. That everyone has to improve. That they must improve if they want to win. That they are not yet one of the “good” teams that the TV suits fawn over. And that they have not yet reached their full potential. The ugly keeps them grounded.
And the wins keep them hungry, keep them together, keep them saying things like Whitworth did on Sunday:
Instead of getting down and fighting among ourselves, we came out and said, ‘Let’s stop talking and let’s stop arguing and let’s just keep our heads down and fight and scrap and have a chance to win.’
In time, I’ll want the wins to be more sightly. But for now, ugly is perfect. Let the team keep “shoveling,” to borrow a Marvin-ism. Build slowly, build right for the long term.