Bengals kept Joe Burrow 'in the loop' on decision to draft Ja'Marr Chase

Considering the current crossroads for quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, it’s interesting to contrast their situations with how the relationship between Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals currently stands.

Granted, it’s the salad days now, with the Bengals making their first Super Bowl in 33 years — and in Burrow’s second season. It’s clear Cincinnati has a healthy amount of respect for the young passer’s input, while also not handing him final say.

The Bengals made Burrow the first overall draft pick in 2020 and anointed him the franchise’s centerpiece. Even coming off a torn ACL he suffered as a rookie, there was no turning back on the idea that Burrow was Cincinnati's best chance to succeed.

So when it came time to discuss its plans for the No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 draft, the Bengals naturally didn’t forget about Joe either.

The decision to draft LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase over an offensive lineman such as Oregon’s Penei Sewell was not immediately embraced by those wanting more protection for Burrow. But it was a carefully considered move by Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin, who sought Burrow’s opinion on which option to consider. Yes, Burrow was biased — he and Chase were college teammates at LSU — yet the QB said he didn’t hold the Bengals hostage over the pick.

The Cincinnati Bengals kept quarterback Joe Burrow (9) in the loop on their decision to draft wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1). (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Cincinnati Bengals kept quarterback Joe Burrow (9) in the loop on their decision to draft wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“I didn’t go in and say, ‘I’d love to have JaMarr,’” Burrow said last week. “The organization did a really good job of making me feel like I was at least kept in the loop about the process.”

Burrow was rehabbing his knee at the team’s facility, which allowed for regular face-to-face communication over the pick.

“I was in here doing my rehab and Duke would come down and talk to me,” he said. “They watched this guy and [said], ‘Tell me what you think. We're meeting with this guy, I'll let you know how it goes.’”

A few weeks prior to last April’s draft, sources told Yahoo Sports, the Bengals settled on Chase over Sewell and other options. The question was whether it was too much of a good thing, with the Bengals already in solid shape at wideout with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd in place, along with solid receiving options at running back and tight end.

Given the experience of Burrow in college and Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan with the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos, the Chase pick became more of a no-brainer.

At LSU, Burrow had Chase, Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall Jr. — one of the best college trios ever — plus good pass-catching backs and tight ends. Likewise, while Callahan was on Denver’s staff from 2013 to 2015, those teams featured an incredible quartet of receiving options: Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker (later replaced by Emmanuel Sanders), Wes Welker and Julius Thomas (also Owen Daniels).

“It really goes back to a simple story that really drove it home for all of us, [Callahan’s] experience in Denver,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “They had three guys, including tight ends, who were difficult one-on-one matchups. In key moments in playoff games, they would get man-to-man coverage, and Peyton would pick the one who has the best matchup and trust that he was going to win.”

Now that’s how Burrow has the Bengals on the doorstep of their first Super Bowl victory, and his quick chemistry with Chase has paid off in immediate dividends.

"I think Ja'Marr, no matter what team drafted [him], he would have had a ton of success this [season]," Taylor said Monday. "But I think him being able to hit the ground running and the chemistry standpoint and relationship with Joe has probably allowed him to maximize his opportunities in Year 1.

"You don't go through the getting-to-know-you process. 'How do I talk to this receiver? And I want him to do this on a route, but I'm not quite sure how to say it.' He and Joe have already done that. They got that out of the way years ago at LSU. From Day 1, they were on the same page."

Joe Burrow received respect that other NFL vets haven't

Meanwhile, former Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks such as Rodgers and Wilson are watching from home. Both players are approaching potential flashpoints with the only franchises they’ve ever known.

Will either get traded? That’s unclear, but what’s inarguable is how these franchise QBs have arrived at this point. It’s complicated, but at the heart of both players’ disagreements with their respective teams has been their lack of perceived input in personnel decisions with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks.

It’s also possible that part of why Tom Brady left New England was a desire to have more sway over decisions, especially on offense, something he never really received with the Patriots. In Tampa, the Buccaneers catered a lot of their moves the past two seasons around maximizing their short window with Brady — and they were rewarded with a Super Bowl title last season.

The Bengals taking Burrow’s perspective into consideration has put the young quarterback in a place where he feels like he’s involved in helping mold the roster.

“As quarterbacks across the league, you see some guys getting frustrated,” Burrow said. “All we want is to have a line of communication in those processes.”

Burrow also made it clear that in no way, shape or form did he demand final say. All he wanted was a seat at the table.

“For me personally, I don't need to feel like I made the decision,” he said. “You could go with my opinion or without my opinion, it doesn't matter to me. As long as I feel like I'm involved in the process. The organization did a great job with that."

It’s funny to say, but some other teams with star passers in place might want to take notes on how the Bengals have operated and consider applying it to their own situations. Before it’s too late.