There is a difference between being patient and being complacent. Patience implies the continued trust in some entity, whereas complacency insinuates an acceptance of the status quo and a reluctance of altering it. That difference is what has kept the Bengals from taking the next step, and what may keep them from doing so in the future as well.
ESPN Insiders Louis Riddick, Mike Sando and Field Yates rated each NFL franchise’s outlook for the next three years based on their roster, quarterback, coaching staff, recent draft capital and front office. Each category has a certain weight that is computed into the team’s score; Roster has the heaviest weight at 30 percent, quarterback and coaching at 20 percent, drafting and front office at 15 percent.
The final score then gets a grade based off a 10 point grading scale, in which the Bengals notched a 71.9, earning them a poor ranking of 29th in the NFL. Their scores and ranks in each category are as follows:
- Roster, 75.0, 19th
- QB, 68.3, 29th
- Coaching, 68.0, 30th
- Draft, 76.7, 17th
- Front Office, 71.0, 27th
The relative bright spots go hand in hand here. The roster is climbing back to solidity due to promising drafts of 2016 and 2017 following the dreadful draft classes of 2014 and 2015. Most of the draft picks from ‘14 and ‘15 have been liquidated over the past year from the team, and overall, the roster is in decent shape in terms of potential and youth.
Andy Dalton and his backups make up the fourth-lowest QB ranking in the league, and specifically because this pertains to the team’s outlook all the way to 2020, it makes more sense. Dalton is entering his 30s and has hit his peak as a passer, the best the Bengals can hope for is stable play around that peak for the next few years up until his contract expires. There is no legitimate backup or long-term plan behind Dalton right now and even with Dalton, they possess a very weak quarterback group compared to the rest of the league.
The 30th ranked coaching staff and 27th ranked front office is a testament to the pessimism behind the complacency in this organization, of which everyone is aware of. The words of Riddick sum up the sentiment pretty clearly:
Does anything ever really change in Cincinnati? This is a team that, year after year, has enough athletes and skilled players to make some noise in its division and conference. However, the problems remain the same. I don’t believe this coaching staff, or any coaching staff for that matter, is good enough to overcome a front office that lacks competent structure and decision-making protocol.
Some things change in Cincinnati, but considering the same formula for now 15 years has netted zero playoff victories, it’s safe to say that the efforts of change have been minimal. The two-year contract extension Marvin Lewis signed this offseason has confirmed that the status-quo is maintained, even after two losings seasons following a crushing playoff defeat at home.
Amidst that skepticism lies Sando’s reasons to not give up all hope just yet:
It’s obvious our projections are suffering from status-quo fatigue. As tough as it might be to get excited about another year with Lewis and Dalton as franchise centerpieces, the Bengals could certainly do much worse. It’s entirely possible youngsters Joe Mixon and John Ross will lead an offensive revival behind a fortified offensive line, which would quickly alter the outlook for Cincy.
Coaching brings out the best in players, but when the players on between the white lines, talent is talent. The Bengals have done a good job assembling quality players over the past two years and it may just be enough to ascend back into playoff contention despite the same leadership making the calls.
The Bengals’ 2018 season will be a striking revelation one way or the other as to whether or not they’ve done enough to justify any optimism going forward.