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Cincinnati Bengals

A Year in the Life of the Bengals – 2002

Andrew Dunn

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We are now in the 11th week of our stroll down memory lane, and the argument could certainly be made that with 2002 at this week’s forefront, we’ve finally reached rock bottom.  Some of the 90’s seasons were painful, no doubt, but after more than a decade of awful, this 2-14 Bengals squad was, at the very least, a gut punch for Bengals fans.  I described last week in much detail about the beginning of a new era in Cincinnati, but had a said that at the time, I’d have had a hard time finding support.

Before the misery, as always, our fun facts, starting with one of my favorites of our 11-week run (but let’s be honest, Blockbuster not purchasing Netflix is likely to stay my favorite) – Spider-Man was released in 2002, starring Tobey Maguire.  What I learned is that if you recall the season where Peter Parker catches Mary Jane and everything on her lunch tray – there was no CGI involved.  It took Maguire (Parker… it occurs to me I’m switching names) 156 takes to nail the scene.

One of Eminem’s biggest hits, if not the biggest, Lose Yourself reigned supreme as the year’s top song, CSI was the top television show, and New Coke was officially discontinued in July of 2002.  Though it had been around since the mid 1980’s, it was widely considered a failure from its launch, as Coca-Cola Classic was re-introduced three months after New Coke was introduced.

Moving on from mediocrity to an even lower level, we’re back to our beloved Bengals of 2002.  In the first year of the AFC North as we know it, the Bengals were 2-14.  They began their season 0-7 before beating the expansion Houston Texans 38-3… so yeah, it didn’t really impress anyone.  They eeked out a shocking victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 16, who wound up 9-7 that season.

I’m not the only one who perceives this season to be rock bottom – in a piece published on ESPN.com, they called this version of the Bengals the worst in the franchise’s history.  This 2-14 team had a myriad of issues, headlined by an uncertain quarterback situation and the worst defense in the NFL.  No, seriously – the defense allowed a league worst 28.5 points per game, despite some solid performances I’ll mention below.

Corey Dillon remained one of the few bright spots on the roster, rushing for 1,311 yards – his sixth thousand-yard season – and seven touchdowns, but his irritation and disgruntlement in Cincinnati started to build here in 2002.  Chad Johnson, now in his second year, had 69 catches for 1,166 yards and five touchdowns, which really established him as a force on this Bengals’ offense.  While we all know where this Dillon story ends, the Johnson story is much different from the perspective of  fan of the Bengals.

Peter Warrick was… okay… again.  He had 53 catches for 606 yards and six touchdowns – I don’t mean to turn my nose up at these numbers, especially with the quarterback situation we’re about to address, but as a fourth-overall pick, it’s hard to accept what many would consider No.2 receiver numbers.

And that leads us to our quarterbacks.  Jon Kitna was the starter for most of the season (Gus Frerotte and Akili Smith would have three and one start, respectively), tallying 3,178 yards with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions – shockingly good numbers when you consider how bad the offense truly was.  Even with the stats of some of these guys I’ve discussed, the Bengals scored under 10 points a whopping six times, including doing it in five of their first six games (and first four overall).

It’s hard to fathom the defense being as bad as it was when you consider the talents there – Takeo Spikes was a top-notch linebacker, Justin Smith wound up being an upper-tier defensive end, and Artrell Hawkins was a very good defensive back, at the very least – it’s this writer’s opinion that he never got his due respect in the league.  And oh, by the way, the team was coached by DICK LEBEAU!  As Bengals fans, we all know what he would go on to do with Steeler defenses… but that may just be what good cultures will do for you.

Part of the reason the defense was so bad was more likely because they were on the field so often – evidenced by the fact that Takeo Spikes racked up an incredible 171 tackles, along with two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.  Smith notched 6.5 sacks, while Hawkins gathered 92 tackles of his own and had hands in five turnovers.

The only notable Draft selection in 2002 was the 10th overall selection, Levi Jones, an offensive tackle who was very good for his early seasons here, but ultimately left on sour terms later in the decade.

The 2002 season saw the Dick LeBeau era come to an end, and while there were pieces added in his time here, no real progress was made towards relevance.  It was really a continuation of the 1990’s era, where expectations weren’t met and results were wildly underwhelming.

So, we head into 2003 with a coaching vacancy and a first overall Draft pick.  2003 wound up being a critical year in Bengals history, as it was the true beginning for most fans of a new era.

An era that still continues in 2018.

Andrew graduated from the University of Kentucky (direct your hate tweets to @atdu222) with a degree in Business Management and minor in Communications. You can find some of his previous works on Bleacher Report. Andrew is a lifelong fan of the Cincinnati Bengals and Reds... he was born in 1990, so his life as a sports fan has been pretty crappy until you extend the boundaries to Lexington. Andrew works full time for Western & Southern Financial Group and is married with a 1 year old daughter.

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Cincinnati Bengals

An Open Letter to Marvin Lewis

Andre Edwards

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Dear Mr. Lewis,

I have been contemplating sending you this letter for quite some time, and I hope it finds you well.   You don’t know me, but I am a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Bengals.  The second Super Bowl loss to the San Francisco 49ers remains as the first time I can remember experiencing heartbreak.  I have, quite literally, hated Joe Montana for what he did to my then 12 year old self, for 30 years now.  That said, my fandom has endured.  Admittedly, as I was in college in the late 90’s, I was not as honed in on every move my Bengals made.  So many losses, so little time.  Sure, I loved Jeff Blake, Corey Dillon, and Takeo Spikes, but I had finals to take and parties from which to recover.  But then something happened.  Something unexpected.  Mike Brown hired you as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003.  Marvin Lewis – the legendary architect of one of the greatest defenses in the history of the league – was coming to be our coach!  The excitement was palpable, and you were brimming with confidence.  It was a swagger not seen around here since the days of Sam Wyche.

As the years passed, you began to place your stamp on the team and the city.  The Marvin Lewis community fund is an outstanding work of art, and a tribute to your dedication to the people of Cincinnati.  Kudos.  On the field, the likes of Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, Rudi Johnson, Willie Anderson, and TJ Houshmandzadeh, made being a Bengals’ fan fun again.  They became must see TV, if not in person appointment viewing.  Cleveland was a guaranteed two wins.  Baltimore was almost two.  Pittsburgh was likely a couple of losses, but the wins were sweet, and the losses were respectable.  I’d look forward to your post-game interviews, and your Monday press conferences.  There was useful information to be gleaned from them.  Things that the average fan would miss as they had long turned off the broadcast and moved on with their lives.  Not me.  I am a loyal fan, remember?  I don’t break down tape or have some hot draft take, but I love my Bengals, and I follow them closely – you included.

I need to take a moment to give you some props on the transition from the Palmer-era to the Dalton-era.  That entire thing was a mess, what with Carson forcing his way out, you hiring an unproven offensive coordinator in Jay Gruden, and then drafting/starting a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton.  And all during an NFL lockout.  I still remember predictions of the team going 0-16 that year.  Somehow, some way, you guided this team, not only to a winning record, but to the playoffs.  I am not sure if I have ever been more impressed by an NFL coach.  You completely rebooted the franchise, and had a whole new cast of characters for us to get to know.  Dalton, AJ Green, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Clint Boling, and Andrew Whitworth.  Young talent, ready to take on the AFC North.  Two wins versus Cleveland – check.  Almost two wins versus Baltimore – check.  Still two losses to Pittsburgh – yeah, most of the time, but division titles weren’t out of reach.  The playoffs became an annual event.  This is where I need to touch on the obvious…

I do not understand your philosophy when it comes to playoff games, and for that matter, night games, games against Pittsburgh, Monday Night Football games, and any other game not at 1 pm eastern.  You seem to have think and preach that these games are just the same as any other.  No need for extra emphasis.  No need for extra hype.  No need to bring an extra chin strap because it’s just another game.  After watching 16 years of this approach from you, I humbly disagree.  Your teams are consistently outplayed, out-coached, and seemingly unprepared for the spotlight of these match-ups.  At some point, would it not make sense to try a different approach?  Maybe call it Pittsburgh week?  Maybe say this Sunday night game is going to be huge for us?  Maybe say that your team is chomping at the bit to play on Monday Night Football?  It’s got to be better than just another game – just another loss.

I know you love this city and this franchise.  I genuinely believe you want to win – for Mike Brown, and for the fans.  That said, I think that it is time to move on with your life’s work.  You gave it your all.  You got more out of Mr. Brown than anyone ever thought possible.  You raised this franchise to a level of respectability that no one could have predicted.  You have done good work.  It’s just not enough.  There is no shame in that.  And if I am being honest, you just do not seem to enjoy this anymore.  Your press conferences, that I used to look forward to hearing, are all the same.  Short, full of disdain for the people asking questions, and random giggles that make no sense.  The fire and energy after 16 years of being an NFL head coach have faded.  Why not let someone else give it a shot?  We both know Mike Brown isn’t going to fire you, so why not walk away?  Do what’s best for the franchise, and make them look for a coach.  Last time, it brought us you!

 

Thank you for reading, and I wish you all the best in your next adventure.

 

Sincerely,

Andre

 

P. S. Please take Hue Jackson with you.  Thanks

 

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Cincinnati Bengals

Blog of Football Sorrows: Week 13

Jeffery Carr

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Today I officially changed the name of this game recap blog. It just fits. To be positive about this iteration of the Bengals is to be a master of the mind that I cannot comprehend (aka delusional).

They’re done. I didn’t think they had much hope for the playoffs before the game, and they certainly don’t now. The injuries are a problem, but they aren’t the problem. The offense has been stale for weeks thriving on an identity-less scheme filled with dink and dunk passes and zero creativity. They now have four games left. The Raiders seem winnable, but with the hope of starting over, do we fans want that? Do we want there to be a glimmer of hope in management’s eyes? I don’t. I want change, and that doesn’t happen by winning any remaining games, this year. Lose em all, blow it up, let’s start fixing the problems that have been ignored for too long.

Jeff Driskel, to no fault of his own, was meh. Which is much the story of 2018. The game plan, in the beginning, seemed to be for him to get momentum built through screens and flat routes…but then they kept the training wheels on. Second quarter, third quarter…it kept going. The Bengals fell behind on the scoreboard and their answer was to run more crossing routes and short outs? Cincinnati ran RPO plays…and only passed. They asked an athletic quarterback who can move to stand tall in the pocket and fend off pressure from a defense with its ears pinned back matching up with a bad and battered offensive line. Kind of like James mentioned on the post-game pod, how bad is Cedric Ogbuehi that the answer to filling in for Cordy Glenn is the starting left guard and not your former first round pick, who is actually supposed to be a left tackle? So the coaching game plan was to tell Driskel to grin and bear it behind an uninspired line with uninspired play calling? But, you know, Marvin Lewis says “We’ve got to do our jobs better. The players have to execute the game plan the way it is coached.” What? The game plan hasn’t changed in 10 years! Different personnel, different opponents, different circumstances, same stale, boring, dull, lifeless, clueless plan. I get sick to my stomach when I listen to Marvin do a press conference.

The only thing left is the future, whatever may come. I know that is bleak. Not one of you reading these words can say, with a straight face, that you can see a different coach roaming the sidelines in 2019 who isn’t Marvin or Hue Jackson. We know. We know there isn’t going to be any change, and that’s why the stadium is empty. That’s why the orange in the stands at Paul Brown Stadium was Bronco orange and not Bengal orange. The sound at the end of the game? Cheers and applause, because anyone still there was a fan of the visiting victors. There’s no one left to boo because they’ve been booing for so long they’ve lost interest. It is understood that the most likely outcome this season, if change comes at all, is that Hue takes the reigns. We’ll go from a boring, uninspired, regularly out-maneuvered coach to a joke of a coach. So how can anyone care? I looked at tickets before the game. You could have sit 12 rows back in the endzone for $35…and I said no. Why? Because the joke that is the visual of the stands at PBS is the last thing we fans have left to tell ownership to get their rear in gear and fix this. Will they? You tell me…

Follow @jefffcarr and @lockedonBengals on Twitter for more angst Bengals content.

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Cincinnati Bengals

Replacing Marvin

Russell Heltman

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A lot of Bengals fans (myself included) wondered before the year why a young team with so much talent was pegged with worse Super Bowl odds than our in-state neighbors.

In the eyes of Las Vegas, it didn’t matter that the Bengals rallied to end last season at 7-9 with a signature victory over the Baltimore Ravens. It didn’t matter that the Bengals made legitimate offseason moves to sure up the offensive line. It didn’t matter that Bill Lazor was given a whole offseason to install his system or that Teryl Austin was bringing a turnovers-or-bust mentality with him from Detroit.

It. Didn’t. Matter.

The only thing that mattered was the face of the franchise returning for his 16th year. Marvin Lewis is and always will be the reason people around the NFL don’t take the Bengals seriously and it’s become both a blessing and a curse.

When Lewis arrived in 2003, he inherited what many considered to be one of the worst franchises in pro sports at the time. The players were using old jock straps, it was a dark time in Bengals history. Though to Lewis’ credit, he rebuilt this franchise into something fans could actually be proud of.

They became competitive, they got to the base of Championship Mountain, but that’s not good enough. Of the six coaches in the NFL who’ve been at the helm for at least a decade, Marvin Lewis is the only one without a Super Bowl trophy.

As of Nov. 28, Cincinnati has lost five of their past six games, their defense is the worst in the league, the offense can’t operate without A.J. Green, and they’ve fired one coach in waiting while rehiring another. That go-ahead score against Pittsburgh in mid-October feels like it happened in 2015.

The Bengals might not have moved on from Marvin, but I have, there’s nothing else I need to see following that 35-20 beatdown this past Sunday. ESPN has pegged Lewis with a 60 percent chance to be fired and though this might be for nothing, here are two head coaching paths the Bengals could choose to down in January.

Anyone But Hue Jackson

Aug 29, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson against the Chicago Bears in a preseason NFL football game at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 21-10. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

11-44-1

That’s really all that needs to be said. Hue Jackson is a great POSITION coach, but he has proved over a large sample size that he is inept as a HEAD coach. Jason La Canfora reported before the Browns game that Jackson has a real shot to replace Lewis if he steps down or takes a front office role.

Fans would be less excited about this than retaining Lewis, especially if he’s in the building overseeing nine of the 10 or 11 losses this team is headed for. Who are we kidding here, this is Lewis’ best friend and if anyone has shown the ability to persuade Mike Brown over the last 16 years, it’s Marvin Lewis.

Jackson is the clear frontrunner if a coaching change ends up happening.

Eric Bieniemy

Dec 7, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running backs coach Eric Bieniemy against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Chiefs 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A former Bengals player from 1995-98, This is the home run hire for Cincinnati. Bieniemy is in his first season as offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs and I don’t have to throw stats in here to prove why that’s been a success.

As a former player for the franchise, Bieniemy has that familiarity that Brown always looks for in new hires. He could come in and immediately offer a fresh perspective on this roster, answer the Andy Dalton question, and start to move this organization into a new era.

Bieniemy has primarily coached running backs before taking over for Matt Nagy this season and some great ones at that: Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Kareem Hunt have all learned and thrived under Bieniemy. Imagine his expertise paired with the talent of Joe Mixon.

Oh and for those concerned with the “lack of coaching experience” after just one season as an OC, just look at the past two guys to hold Bieniemy’s current spot. Doug Pederson went from Chiefs OC to winning a Super Bowl, Nagy has turned the Bears from a laughing stock to a contender in his first season. Those expectations might not be fair for Bieniemy, but the blueprint is out there for Mike Brown to make a championship hire.

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