Last week, I wrote an article that was intended to provide some hope for Bengals fans, that the tunnel with the light at the end of it may not be as long as some may think. While I am hopeful, I am also realistic, and I realize that it takes a lot of things going right for the Bengals to make a quick, one-year turnaround. However, some responded to the article with resistance to even entertaining the idea that the Bengals could be playoff contenders in 2020. Most of the concerns revolved around the bad offensive line, the lack of trust in the front office to make free agent acquisitions, and the lack of a ‘plan.’ While all of these concerns are legitimate, I think there are some signs that show that the franchise COULD be headed in the right direction in each of these areas. In this three part series, we will look at these in greater detail, one at a time.
In the third and final installment of this series, let’s address the lack of a ‘plan’ by the front office that has some fans feeling like a turnaround is impossible. I would agree, that the Bengals have missed some prime opportunities thus far. They could have, and arguably should have, traded both Cordy Glenn and Andy Dalton at the trade deadline in late-October. Instead, they completely botched both of those situations in benching Dalton for Ryan Finley, and then the drama surrounding Cordy before finally making his debut in November. However, all is not lost (yet). The Bengals can still move on from both players and receive some cap relief with no dead money, whether they release or trade either player. Rumors have been swirling around Dalton and perhaps New England, but no matter the team, there should be interest in the veteran signal-caller from a number of teams before the draft. If the team can swap Dalton for a mid-round pick, that would be a major win compared to losing him for ‘nothing.’ Also, you cannot convince me that this team was not tanking this year for the top-pick. Fourth-rounder Ryan Finley received three starts and completed just 47% of his passes, A.J. Green was held out for the duration of the season (whether that was 100% his decision or mutual, who knows), and the team lacked the will to win close games as evidenced by their (0-8) record in games decided by eight points or less. This led ultimately to the first overall selection, and presumably a chance to draft their franchise quarterback in LSU record-setter Joe Burrow. Was this team good in 2019? Absolutely not. Were they (2-14) bad? I also do not believe so. In a recent Twitter poll with nearly 1,100 votes, the good fans of Bengals Talk voted Burrow as the better quarterback RIGHT NOW at a clip of 3:1. I just mentioned their inability to win close games. Do you think Burrow wins four of those games that were one-score losses? Maybe more? Obviously, there is no way to tell, but the point is that with the same talent as last year’s squad, we would expect Burrow to do better than the Dalton/Finley combo. Add-in A.J. Green (whom I do believe resigns with Cincy), Jonah Williams, and the continued development of guys like John Ross and Auden Tate and suddenly that is one scary offense that can keep up with teams that score on our somewhat porous defense.
All of this to say, I think while Bengals fans have a right to be cynical and skeptical of this team, if you are able to put away some of that bias you can squint and see a path to a playoff berth in 2020. Again… is it likely? Probably not. But it is possible. And for those weary, tired Bengals fans that feel like they are walking in the dark when rooting for this team, the bright light at the end is shining a little brighter.