It might be time for those in charge of the Cincinnati Bengals organization to step in and do something about what’s happening on the field.
At some point, excuses have to fly out the window. Last year was a 2-14 season for Zac Taylor and his handpicked staff and the excuses flowed. They assembled late and were unable to change up the roster they inherited. The injury bug. Etc.
This year the Bengals are 0-2-1 and the excuses could flow again. There wasn’t a preseason. The team overhauled the roster. Etc. Yet the same problems as the year prior remain and Taylor is now 0-10-1 in one-score games.
And the most important factor of all: This mess could ruin Joe Burrow.
That’s what it’s all about now. Cincinnati was lucky enough to back into a franchise quarterback who at times already looks like a top-10 player. If the players in front of him and around him can’t help him, if the coaching staff can’t do right by him, the overarching organization needs to step in and make changes.
Doing so could be the difference between Burrow sticking around and pushing for contention or yet another franchise passer wanting to get out of town.
Taylor’s playcalling has mostly been miserable, especially in Week 3. His Lou Anarumo-directed defense still doesn’t want to tackle. His offensive line is still headed up by Jim Turner, he of an iffy pro resume to begin with but oddly defended by Taylor from Day 1, and they’re still trotting out Bobby Hart at right tackle and praying a mediocre-to-terrible cast of guards can somehow come together and make it work inside. Burrow has already been sacked 14 times with 11 hurries and 30 pressures on a pressure rate of 18.4 percent. He’s taking hits that go instantly viral and it’s clear to anyone who has watched football in the past that he might not make it through all 16 games.
It kills part of me they'll bench John Ross after actively seeking out more guys to replace him but ignore clear problem areas on the offensive line in front of a No. 1 pick. I don't know.
— Chris Roling (@Chris_Roling) September 27, 2020
One could dismiss this in part as a rookie holding onto the ball too long. But flick on a random play and you’ll probably see some combination of Hart getting pushed back so hard it looks like he’s a bodyguard escorting the defender to the quarterback, Jonah Williams randomly losing all sense of how to function and some tandem of Michael Jordan, Fred Johnson and Billy Price getting plopped on their rear ends like they’re getting bullied at a middle schoool’s playground.
It’s bad and something has to change.
Burrow shouldn’t be putting up a 105.5 rating in a tie game. The head coach shouldn’t be openly admitting after the game they still don’t know how to fix the offensive line and spots like right guard. That same head coach shouldn’t be 0-10-1 in one-score games, almost regardless of context. That staff shouldn’t get the ball back confronted with a tie game near the end of overtime, tuck tail and run a draw to accept that tie.
Joe Mixon, on a fresh big-money extension, shouldn’t be getting just 17 carries, averaging 2.9 yards and getting just three targets through the air. The staff shouldn’t end up making a former top-10 wideout inactive because they rostered seven and just can’t figure out how to make it work.
One can pin this on execution by players too, of course. Why are defensive backs getting flagged twice on a potential game-ending drive before the Eagles force overtime? Why don’t defenders want to tackle, multiple times missing at or behind the line of scrimmage, only for the opponent to go pick up a first down? Why is there a miscommunication that lets up a touchdown before the half? Why doesn’t the offensive line…play even passable football by putting hands on someone?
The honeymoon is over. Now the Bengals are on the ruining Burrow clock. Spending big in free agency was good. Targeting guys from winning programs, pro or collegiate, was smart. But just getting those guys in the door doesn’t mean the winning starts. The Bengals shouldn’t be having tackling issues and one of the worst offensive lines ever assembled in modern times. Other teams faced a variety of challenges, including the odd summer, and aren’t playing like this. And the line problems, in particular, are extensions of self-inflicted wounds because if we’re being honest, a smart organization would still have Andrew Whitworth playing left tackle and Kevin Zeitler at right guard.
That organization can’t give another coaching staff a decade-long leash here. More like eight weeks. What’s the answer? Free agents, trades? Moving on from positional coaches? Darrin Simmons, head coach? Trying Fred Johnson at right tackle and giving Hakeem Adeniji at guard? Anything?
Point is, it never should’ve reached this point. A team backed into a generational talent at quarterback and fixed up plenty of areas on the roster…except the league-worst offensive line? And entrusted Jim Turner to magically squeak out better performances from guys who haven’t shown anything yet?
This isn’t how you win back fans and it’s not how you function around a special quarterback. There shouldn’t be whispers around the fanbase of “maybe Marvin Lewis was right.” It’s only three games into a season, but the stakes are higher now. If the last year has been a turning point for the organization, that needs to include better response times to obvious issues, especially when it’s a talent like Burrow at stake.
Anything less than immediate changes won’t sit well with fans — and rightfully so.