Here are my thoughts following the Cincinnati Bengals’ latest disappointment, a 22-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.
The Bengals weren’t going to make the playoffs even if they won …
… But this one still hurts. Cincinnati started the game well, had the Dolphins on the ropes when they took a 14-6 lead, but allowed a mediocre team to come back and win the game by a somewhat comfortable margin.
It’s just amazing how the Bengals have found ways to lose games this year. It’s certainly the polar opposite of 2009. Even when the ball does bounce their way – like on Terrell Owens’ second touchdown reception of the game to give the home team the aforementioned eight-point advantage – they are a good bet to eventually shoot themselves in the foot and pull defeat from the jaws of victory.
Oh well, like I said, even if they had won yesterday and were 3-4 right now instead of 2-5, they weren’t going to make the playoffs. Have you seen the rest of their schedule? It’s been daunting enough up to this point, but they still have to play defending Super Bowl champ New Orleans, defending Super Bowl runner-up Indianapolis, as well as Pittsburgh twice. And there are some other non-easy games mixed in there as well.
So, this team saw it’s playoff hopes sail away when it lost to the Browns and Buccaneers in back-to-back weeks (and then followed it up by losing off their bye week to the Falcons, who are at least a solid team) but losing to the Dolphins at home still stung for some reason. It really shouldn’t have though. We should already be angling for the best draft pick as possible. And maybe for a new coach. Which brings us to our next topic.
Is it time for Marvin to go?
It’s a question that probably all Bengal fans are pondering right now: Is it time to fire head coach Marvin Lewis?
However, considering the fact that the Bengals made the playoffs last year as AFC North champions, I seriously doubt it will happen this year. He’ll get at least one more year before owner/president/mindless asshat Mike Brown even thinks about pulling the plug. (Unless there is a major disaster of some sort down the stretch. Like if they finish 2-14 for example. But that’s not going to happen.)
Let’s cut to the chase here: Marvin Lewis is not a good head coach. I’ve said it for a long time and I would love for anyone to come up with a salient argument that combats my opinion. Just because he’s clearly better than the trainwreck of head coaches that Brown has hired (since his father and NFL legend Paul Brown passed away in 1991 and he took over ownership of the team) doesn’t make Lewis a good coach. It just makes him better than Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet and Dick LeBeau. The latter is a great defensive coordinator but has no business being a head coach. Sound familiar? That’s Marvin Lewis to a T. Just completely over his head as a head coach.
Almost any time there’s a chance for him to make a mistake in clock management, he will do so. The Bengals were leading the Dolphins 14-9 near the end of the first half and there was no possible way for the Dolphins to get the ball back in time to drive a kick a field goal. Unless they happened to be going against a Lewis-led team. Translation: It was 14-12 at halftime after the latest botching of clock management by Lewis. You just can’t give away points like that in the NFL and expect to win. And it’s been a common theme of his head coaching tenure.
Now, are the Bengals some great team this year? Hell no. They have their share of deficiencies and have been hit somewhat hard with injuries (although nothing crazy; just the typical things that happen during most football seasons).
But there is no question that they should at least be an average team, or perhaps even a good one. Seriously, does anyone think Bill Belichick would be 2-5 with this team? No, he would probably be 5-2. However, it’s not fair to bring up the best coach in the NFL and compare Lewis to him. I mean, are you the best person in the world at your chosen profession?
But there are plenty others who would get a winning record out of this Bengals team even with the ridiculous schedule. Jeff Fisher, Andy Reid, Tom Coughlin, Mike Tomlin, Jack Del Rio, Mike Smith, Rex Ryan and Sean Peyton to name a few off the top of my head. So, let’s not pretend like this is completely a talent issue or something. There are plenty of coaches that would be doing a better job than Lewis.
Although, it can’t be forgotten that Lewis is strapped by working under the worst front office in the NFL. That simply cannot be ignored. Mike Brown could negatively affect the production of even the best head coach (not that a good head coach would ever agree to work for him).
So, it is time for Marvin to go? That can certainly be debated. But the bottom line is Brown won’t fire him after this season. In Brown’s deranged world, Lewis is a very good coach because he’s better than the other guys Brown has hired. So, expect to see Marv get another year.
Pink-slip time for Bratkowski
However, it’s definitely time for offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski to go. Enough is enough with this guy and there needs to be at least one major change made on the coaching staff after this disaster of a season. Bratkowski has actually been on the staff two years longer than Lewis because he was also LeBeau’s offensive coordinator. Not only has he masterminded the regression of quarterback Carson Palmer, his play-calling is downright dreadful at times. The Bengals had a stretch during the Dolphins games when they had four-straight three-and-outs.
Brat is the king of calling for a 3-yard pass on third-and-5. Watch the Patriots or other good teams; they rarely do that. Occasionally a good team will call a crossing route or something to that effect and try and allow one of its playmakers to try and get the first down on their own, but Bratkowski tries to do it far too often. He’s horrific and it’s time for a new person to run the offense.
Not that Brown and the clowns that work for him would ever do it, but they should be knee-deep in a search for their new offensive coordinator as we speak. And I don’t want to hear anything about promoting from within.
But it’s not just the offense
For Halloween, the Bengals’ defenders dressed up as players who are allergic to quarterbacks. Oh, never mind, that wasn’t just for this game. It’s been like that all season.
The pass rush has been non-existent this season and there are a myriad of reasons. Robert Geathers has never been the same since getting injured a few years ago, Antwan Odom is serving a suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs (and didn’t look very good before that since he was coming off injury), the Bengals don’t have any good linebackers that are pass-rushers, and coordinator Mike Zimmer’s schemes have been too predictable and basic. I love Zimmer, but it’s not fair to rip the rest of the coaching staff without pointing out that he’s also not getting the job done. There is simply no excuse for the lack of pressure the Bengals are applying on quarterbacks this year – especially considering the fact that Zimmer is an aggressive coach.
Palmer still shaky
Just when you thought, “Alright, he looks pretty good again; maybe it’s not his fault” after his performance against the Falcons, Palmer comes right back with a game where he could’ve had about 10 interceptions if the Dolphins’ defensive backs didn’t have stones for hands.
As it stands, Palmer was 17-of-38 for 156 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. One of the touchdowns should have been a pick (Owens’ second TD) and Palmer was throwing into traffic all day. When he wasn’t doing that, he was air-mailing his receivers. We are watching the demise of Carson Palmer happen right before our eyes. It disgusts me. I thought he was going to be a future Hall of Famer. Now he’s barely a mediocre NFL quarterback. Truly amazing. Nice player development they have there with the Bengals. But Palmer also must take a lot of the blame for allowing his career to regress like this. Hopefully he gets it turned around, but it’s not looking good. His accuracy and decision-making are atrocious at times and I never thought I would say that.
Smith starts, doesn’t look terrible
One of the few bright spots of the Dolphins game from the Bengals’ perspective was the fact that second-year right tackle Andre “Sir Bust A Lot” Smith started and was solid for the most part. Maybe he’s not a bust after all. Still a bad pick, but not a complete bust. Or maybe I’m grasping for straws since there’s very little to be positive about regarding this team.
Smith was the No. 6 overall pick of the 2009 draft and it looked like another bust for the Bengals. But maybe Smith can mold himself into a serviceable player.
Losing J.Jo hurt
Cornerback Johnathan Joseph missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle and that was a factor in the loss to Miami. The Dolphins were able to pick on Morgan Trent (who did have an interception, but didn’t look good otherwise) and it wasn’t Leon Hall’s finest day at the office either. Pacman Jones is out for the season and rookie Brandon Ghee is just a special teams player for now, so it was Trent that got the start. Not good.
However, Joseph is expected to return for the Monday night game next week against the Steelers. He will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and hopefully the Bengals can work out a deal with him. I don’t see him leaving since the team can franchise him at worst, but the bottom line is they need to get Joseph to sign a long-term contract. Cedric Benson will also be an UFA after this season and they’ll also need him back. I like Bernard Scott, but who knows if he can hold up as the starter, and you need two good running backs in the NFL anyway. No question Benson needs re-signed after this season.
No Williams affects Bengals
One injury that doesn’t get talked about much – but is one that I think is really hurting the team – is strong safety Roy Williams’ knee ailment. He missed most of last season with a broken arm and he’s once again been on the shelf most of this year with the knee. Williams would really bring a physical and nasty presence that this defense lacks.
Updated predicted record
I’m going with 6-10. I don’t think they will completely tank the season and they’ll win four more games. I went with 9-7 at the start of the season and that will certainly be off the mark by a long shot.