The 2013 season is one of those seasons I’ve been both looking forward to examining, as well as dreading it. While the fairly recent 2008 and 2010 seasons were torture to sit through as fans, the 2013 Bengals brought on a new kind of pain – after four playoff losses had already dragged Marvin Lewis’ reign as head coach through the mud, it was this fifth one that really put a lot of fans over the top. This team was brilliant and fun to watch for the entire regular season, only to have the biggest gut punch of a playoff loss (until this point, at least…. We’ll get there) crush the remaining optimism in the hearts of a good chunk of the fan base.
This week’s fun facts are a little different than usual – you won’t be finding any music chart toppers or highest grossing movies this week. No, 2013 had some incredibly obscure facts/occurrences for our entertainment. First, 2013 marked the first year since 1933 that no Loch Ness Monster sightings were reported… which came as a highly disappointing finding for the conspiracy enthusiast in me. Next, the Google site went down for roughly a five-minute period in August of 2013 – it took roughly 40% of internet traffic with it, an astounding number for just one site, no matter how gargantuan said site is.
And of course, a little hiccup from PayPal that most of us would like to have been on the receiving end of. The company – erroneously, of course – deposited $92.2 quadrillion into a user’s account. I’m not entirely sure what happened next, but I would assume that the man/woman in this case instantly woke up from their dream.
Now then, onto one of the more impressive teams of the Marvin Lewis era. This team went 11-5, including 8-0 at Paul Brown Stadium, and came out of the regular season as AFC North Champions.
They were mostly quiet during free agency, as per usual, but they did make something of a splash by signing longtime Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison. The 2013 Draft wound up turning out some good players for the Bengals, even if one in particular realized his potential after leaving the team. Much to my chagrin at the time, the team grabbed Tyler Eifert 21st overall, adding him to a corps that already included Jermaine Gresham.
They also used another one of the Raiders selections they received as part of the Palmer deal to draft Giovanni Bernard 37th overall, giving some lightning to BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ thunder. Safety Shawn Williams joined the Bengals in round three, while running back Rex Burkhead was drafted 190th overall. As most of us have realized, he’s done more in New England in one season than he ever did with the Bengals – a large fan contingent blames that on the coaching, not on Burkhead himself.
Cincinnati, despite an opening weekend loss to the Bears at Soldier Field, came out of the gate pretty hot, starting the season 6-2. Those six wins included victories over some strong teams, including the Patriots, Steelers, and Packers. Two consecutive overtime losses – one of which came via a safety on Halloween in Miami (only the Bengals, folks) – halted the momentum a touch, but not for long. The Bengals’ lone blemish in the final six games of the season came at Heinz Field, culminating in the aforementioned 11-5 record.
The division title set the Bengals up with the AFC’s third seed in the playoffs, meaning they would host the sixth-seeded San Diego Chargers – a team they had defeated in San Diego only a handful of weeks prior. Going into the January 5 showdown, even the experts were finally showing the Bengals some respect, as most of them predicted a Bengals victory.
Before we get into the game and the stats on the season, I feel compelled to tell a small anecdote. Once the Bengals reached the 5-0 mark at home that season, I recall looking at my dad and saying, “They’re going to go unbeaten at home and drop the opener in the playoffs… I can feel it.” The sad part of being a fan in Cincinnati is that I know I’m not the only one who had that thought during the season.
Stories aside, we all know how that cold, snowy day in Cincinnati ended – the Chargers, fresh out of their warm weather environment, dismantled the Bengals in every sense of the word, crushing the dreams of the team and fans, 27-10. Another mediocre-to-subpar performance in the playoffs by Andy Dalton took on the brunt of the punishment from fans, but the fact is I recall one thing about this game very vividly – the Bengals were destroyed in the trenches.
The offensive line was constantly overpowered by the Chargers’ front four, while the Bengals’ star-studded front four on defense was no match for the Chargers’ offensive line. Ronnie Brown, long past his prime with Miami, ran for 77 yards on just eight carries, while he and Danny Woodhead each scored a touchdown. The loss really cemented the sour taste of the Marvin Lewis era in most fans’ mouths, while this was what really fueled the fire directed at Dalton.
But, there will be more on both of those fronts as we move down the line. Dalton – say what you want about him during the postseason – was very good in 2013, throwing for 4,296 yards, 33 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. That’s definitely more picks than you want to see, but a 4,000+ yard season and 30+ touchdowns blew a lot of critics away.
Veteran running back Green-Ellis was largely disappointing in year two as a Bengal, going for a modest 756 yards on a very disappointing 3.4 yards per carry, but he did score seven times. The rookie Bernard racked up 695 yards on 4.1 yards per carry, scoring five touchdowns of his own. Bernard also caught 56 passes, second most on the team, for 514 yards and three scores.
The receiving corps really had two stars, one of which was, of course, star receiver A.J. Green. He caught 98 passes for 1,426 yards and 11 touchdowns, arguably his best season in orange and black. Second-year wide out Marvin Jones only caught 35 passes, but 10 of which went for touchdowns – the sixth-round receiver managed to catch four in one game against the Jets in 2013. This began his ascent up the NFL ranks, which has now landed him with a lucrative contract in Detroit.
The rookie, Eifert was fairly underwhelming in his 15 appearances, only catching two touchdowns. While he was a rookie, his red zone effectiveness was largely considered his strength, and it was never really on display.
Mike Zimmer continued to put himself on the map as a head coach target by throwing out one of the league’s better defenses week in and week out. Vontaze Burfict made a team-high 131 tackles, while Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick each collected three interceptions. Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry each had solid seasons along the front four, making 7.5 sacks apiece, while star pass-rusher Geno Atkins had six of his own before a major injury ended his 2013 season on Halloween.
Sadly, this marked the beginning of what some may view as a revolt against the Bengals in general. The playoff struggles had now dragged on for 20+ years, and with Marvin Lewis being one of the longest-tenured coaches in the league, it was a constant belief that his hot seat should’ve been on fire.
Next week brings a new issue to Cincinnati – sure, the playoffs will be on the agenda, but an injury-riddled team will at least give Marvin an excuse.
Blog of Football Sorrows: Week 13
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…
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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
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.
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.
A Sucker Until the Bitter End
Am I frustrated? Yes. Do I look back at week 5 when the Cincinnati Bengals sported a 4-1 record and feel as though that was a lifetime ago? Sure. Here’s the thing, Stephen A. Smith said, and I don’t remember word for word, but if you continue to support the Bengals who continue to refuse to put a competent product on the field then you are a sucker. I must confess, I am a sucker.
Sure, I am in the camp that is counting down the days until things change…even though I do not know when that countdown will end. You can check out my last post for reference. That being said, I am still going to be a fan. I’m still rooting for my team. That won’t change. Heck, I even mentioned that I might go to the game, this Sunday, if I can get a deal on some lower bowl tickets.
I had a buddy tell me he’d rather get hit by a car than go to the game, and I can’t blame him. Heck, there might be more value in staying away from the stadium, to get the point across to Mr. Brown. Here’s the thing, though, I am actually sort of looking forward to what will happen with Jeff Driskel. Now, I’m not saying I want him to be theguy, but entertain me for the rest of the season. When we think of football, that’s the basis of what we’re looking for, entertainment. I believe Driskel has the possibility to be entertaining. Urban Meyer once thought he could be the next Tim Tebow. What that tells me is he has heart and toughness. Joe Goodberry broke down a play in which Andy Dalton ran against the Browns and Driskel later ran, against the exact same defensive look. Andy threw a pick and Driskel threw a TD, so who knows? Maybe this won’t be that awful.
So what are you thinking about the Bengals? Are you burning jerseys? Are you cancelling season tickets? Are you switching allegiances? Hit me up on the Twitter (@jefffcarr), or here in the comments section, I want to get a gauge. I don’t blame you if you do any of that, by the way. I can see why you’d want to switch allegiances (just don’t be a Steelers’ fan, that would be messed up). Just know that I will be here, still. There’s something in my DNA that no matter what Mr. Brown and the gang try to do to my fan heart, I keep coming back. It might physically hurt me to no longer be a Bengals fan, I don’t know, but I’m not going to find out. I keep hanging on to that super-slim hope that one day there will be a Super Bowl ring. One day I’ll get to sing “We are the Champions” in regards to my Bengals, and that will be enough to erase all these years of wondering if I could have better used my time on Sunday.