Category Archives: Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals – Wake Me When It’s Over—By John Huang

Bengals took on visiting Colts 8-30-18 – Photo by Brendon Miller – BSN

(Cincinnati, Oh.) – Missed it by that much! With their last minute 27-26 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium, the Cincinnati Bengals finished the 2018 preseason at 3-1. A 28-yard pass from Phillip Walker to Cobi Hamilton with just over a minute to go ruined the chance at a perfect preseason. What does a 3-1 record actually mean? Probably nothing, as preseason performance has never been a reliable indicator of regular season success.

There’s seldom anything in sports more meaningless for fans of an NFL team than the fourth preseason game. By this time, the excitement of seeing new faces in training camp has long worn off, and everyone can’t wait for the real season to begin. The starters never play in this pointless exhibition, wisely unwilling to risk injury in games that don’t count. Subdued fans in a half empty stadium end up watching a bunch of players they’ve never heard of grind it out on the field. In other words, it’s boring. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted these games “don’t rise to NFL standards.”

So why am I here? Why is anybody here? According to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, the preseason is always about evaluating talent. It’s about getting talented, young athletes—vying for their livelihood—out onto the field to see what they can do. “It’s what it’s all about,” Marvin said, when I asked him earlier if, after fifteen years, he still enjoyed the preseason games. “It’s fun. It’s great to see our young guys go out and play.” Marvin then continued in detail about the gameday exploits of Joe Mixon, John Ross, Mark Walton, C.J. Uzomah, and Carl Lawson. What’s more, he talked about them with excitement, enthusiasm, and a smile on his face—so opposite to the curt and stoic responses we’ve all grown accustomed to. At least he seemed to be having fun.

Conditioning also plays into these preseason games. Players routinely use these contests to get into shape, testing their stamina in game type situations. Supposedly, the Bengals are implementing new offensive and defensive schemes this year, so they’re utilizing these games for added benefit. They also have a lot of new personnel on their roster—a roster that needs to be trimmed to fifty-three in the next few days. On the surface, there appear to be plenty of good reasons to play preseason games.

Who are we kidding? The real reason these games are played is because of the M-O-N-E-Y. With the in-game attendance and television contracts, these games remain as big-time revenue producers. In a sport where teams only play eight games in their billion-dollar stadiums, I guess it helps to have two more preseason games that don’t count on the schedule. It’s always puzzling to me how the league harps so much on player safety while adding 240 extra minutes of meaningless football each preseason in which the players could get hurt.

Alan Cutler, who hosted the pregame, postgame, and halftime shows on the Bengals Radio Network for the past fifteen years was a bit more direct. “One of the biggest jokes in our American sports society is preseason football,” he said. “The NFL teams rip off fans by selling the preseason and regular season games together as a package. No one would pay full dollars for these preseason games.”

Besides ticket packages, television revenue for sixty-five additional preseason games isn’t chump change either. When questioned about that aspect of the NFL cash cow, Cutler was even more outspoken. “Although TV ratings are lower for preseason games, just having the games on television allows the networks to make tons of money when selling it to their advertisers,” he said. “It’s a money scam at the expense of the fans. It’s also not healthy for the players.”

It’s easy to rant at a substandard commodity, but what’s the fix? “Add a couple of players to the roster each year,” Cutler expounded. “It would give more players fewer snaps per game which could help injuries and improve the product. There has already been a lot of talk about expanding the regular season to eighteen games. With the health of the players being a HUGE issue—and it should be—starting the season a week earlier in order to give teams a second bye makes perfect sense. But the NFL doesn’t want to start the season on Labor Day weekend because not as many will be watching on TV.”

On a Thursday night in August, 39,520 fans (the announced attendance) were watching in Paul Brown Stadium. I tallied an additional 79 journalists and media types covering the game on press row. Unfortunately, I also counted nine players who went down during the game with injuries—including Bengals second string quarterback Matt Barkley who left the game in the first quarter with a left knee injury. That alone is reason enough to stop this insanity. It’s time to shorten the preseason. I wouldn’t mind if it were abolished altogether.

Next week, it’ll be the Cincinnati Bengals versus the Indianapolis Colts once again. This time, at least, it’ll be for REAL.

John Huang is a columnist for Bluegrass Sports Nation, Sports View America, and Nolan Media Group. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

New Boss Same as Old Boss—By John Huang

Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis – Photo by Ron Hamblin

(CINCINNATI, OH) – When Roger Daltrey of the British rock band The Who, belted out those iconic words “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss,” he may have been referring to Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. Likewise, when Bill Murray, the lead character in the hit movie Groundhog Day, woke up to the exact same routine day after day, he was probably channeling Bengals owner Mike Brown. Lewis and Brown have now been dancing together for the past 15 years. For die-hard Bengals fans, if the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” then Brown keeping Lewis on board after another disappointing campaign is sure to drive many in the Queen City absolutely crazy.

For the 2018 NFL football season, Marvin Lewis returns once again as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. But that’s not all. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict will be yet again serving a four-game suspension, and tight end Tyler Eifert remains forever questionable as he recovers from offseason back surgery. As far as the Bengals are concerned, it seems as though the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In the team’s pre-camp luncheon last month, Brown was asked about bringing Lewis back after two consecutive losing seasons (6-9-1 in 2016 and 7-9 in 2017). “It’s a very sturdy relationship,” he said. “We know each other. We’re comfortable with each other. I think he can right our ship this year and go forward the way we want.”

That sounds exactly like an owner comfortable with mediocrity. Lewis hasn’t been horrible in his 15-year stint. A 125-112-3 record and seven playoff appearances, including five straight from 2011-2015, isn’t something long-suffering fans should ever take for granted. But neither is it something Super Bowl dreams are made of. Lewis told me last year that his goal every year is the Super Bowl. For a coach who has never won a playoff game, he’s got some ground to make up before he makes a believer out of me.

It’s hard to glean much from your first pre-season game, but if the Bengals 30-27 victory over the Chicago Bears in Paul Brown Stadium tonight is any indication, perhaps there is hope after all. A 33-yd touchdown pass from Jeff Driskel to Auden Tate with 2:04 to go in the game capped an exciting Cincinnati comeback.

Offensively, the starters looked smooth and efficient. Andy Dalton was 6 for 8 passing, for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns. This team should be able to score. Remember, last year the Bengals offense finished last in the NFL in total offense and 26th in points per game. Let’s hope the first half tonight is a harbinger of good things to come, as offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s machine finally cranks into high gear. Running back Joe Mixon moved up everybody’s fantasy draft board, while the speedy wide receiver duo of A.J. Green and John Ross are sure to cause headaches for many in the opponent’s secondary.

On the other side of the ball, Paul Guenther seems like a distant memory. Under his leadership last year, the Bengals ranked 18th in yards allowed. Worse yet, they were next to last in takeaways with a measly 14. New defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, swoops in from Detroit for the timely rescue. Last year, the Lions were 9th in the league in total defense and had 32—more than double—the number of takeaways.

“We flew around pretty well,” said Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap. “Things happen in the regular season that can set you back, but it’s how you respond and reset that determines whether or not you’ll be able to do what you want to do. This was a good preseason test.”

A nice preseason opening night crowd of 35,633 went home happy and entertained—if not with Super Bowl visions dancing in their heads, at least with the hopes of changes for the better coming from the top down throughout the organization. Perhaps this is wishful thinking on my part, but I sensed a definite desire for creativity amongst the entire Bengals coaching staff. If the talent is there, sometimes you just have to shake up the schemes to maximize your chances of success.

“We’re doing a lot of things differently,” Mike Brown elaborated. “I don’t think the public understands that. We have put in a whole new offensive system. We’ve put in a whole new defensive system. When you do that in pro football, that’s big. But that goes under the radar because it isn’t the head coach.”

The head coach is still Marvin Lewis. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. How much things change from here on out remains to be seen.   

 John Huang is a columnist for Bluegrass Sports Nation, Sports View America, and Nolan Media Group. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

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Out Like a Lamb—By John Huang

Bengals upend Lions in final home game of the season – Photo by Mike Cyrus

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – For the 2017 regular season finale in Paul Brown Stadium, Detroit came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. Cincinnati’s surprise 26-17 upset victory was small consolation to a train wreck of a Bengals campaign that started with high hopes but ended with sordid dismay. Not only do the Bengals miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year, they end up with potentially only six wins while alienating most of their fan base with disappointingly lackluster play. The Marvin Lewis era has mercifully run its course in the Queen City, and providentially, I was on hand to witness his likely swan song. That didn’t stop Marvin from being markedly upbeat. Continue reading Out Like a Lamb—By John Huang

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Pro Football – Cryin’ about Tigers and Bears, Oh My! —By John Huang

Bears rip Bengals – Photo by Brendon Miller

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) — Last Monday night’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was like a punch to the Bengals’ solar plexus. As Chris Boswell’s 43-yard field goal sailed through the uprights, a discernably audible gasp could be heard circulating throughout the environs of Paul Brown Stadium and beyond. Not only did the Bengals lose, they lost in spectacularly sordid fashion—blowing a 17-0 lead by committing a franchise record of 173 yards in penalties. Although not mathematically eliminated from playoff consideration, the gasp you heard was the Bengals’ hopes for post-season play escaping from the soul of their perennially disheartened fan base. Continue reading Pro Football – Cryin’ about Tigers and Bears, Oh My! —By John Huang

Pro Football – All My Rowdy Friends—By John Huang

MNF Crew – Photo by Brendon Miller

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) — To the true sports enthusiast, there’s really nothing like the spectacle known as Monday Night Football. With the outcome of the weekend slate of games banished to the rearview mirror, the eyes of the entire sporting world become focused ahead on the two remaining teams left playing on center stage. With no other distractions in sight at the beginning of this work week, anyone with even the slightest interest in the National Football League is keenly tuned in on Monday night. For the participating players and coaches, that means every move is scrutinized, every highlight is magnified, and every blunder is dissected ad infinitum by friend and foe alike. Continue reading Pro Football – All My Rowdy Friends—By John Huang