First, let's be honest: the best off-season move for the Bengals happened yesterday when Bill Cowher retired. I hate all things Pittsburgh but admit to having a soft spot in my heart for old Iron Jaw. He is a fantastic coach and always made the most out of the least amount of talent [see last year's Super Bowl team]. Cowher owned the Bengals in his sixteen years with the Steelers. Of all current NFL coaches, he's the one guy I would want in Cincinnati without a doubt.
Speaking of Bengals coaching, I've remained silent since the devastating loss of a week ago. This past season was an enigma; I saw things this season that I never have seen before in my life: Justin Smith's bogus roughing the passer call against Tampa Bay [cost them the game], a blown 21-point lead against San Diego [cost them the game], Rudi Johnson's fumble and the botched PAT against Denver [cost them the game], last week's missed field goal against the Steelers [cost them the game], not to mention the numerous arrests [cost them more than they'd like to admit].
This season had messed with my mind more than that of any other Cincinnati sports team. The only thing I can compare it to was Ohio State under John Cooper: you knew they had national championship talent but they never acted like it.
The thing that's ticked me off is the way that many fans have turned on Marvin Lewis. They complain about three 8-8 seasons in three years, but they've quickly forgotten how sucky we truly were. Just look at the stats during Marvin's tenure.
- 2003 [8-8] Jon Kitna was our quarterback. We played a cake schedule. If that team had played this year's schedule, they go 3-13.
- 2004 [8-8] Carson's first year. Another average schedule for a below average team. That season the last game was against a Super Bowl bound Philly that mailed it in. They should've been 7-9.
- 2005 [11-5] Average schedule. Team takes advantage of it and wins their division. IF [play along] Carson doesn't get hurt this is a Super Bowl team. Unlucky.
- 2006 [8-8] Toughest schedule in the league. Of course, they still could've made the playoffs, but the defense absolutely kills them this year.
What I'm saying is this: schedule does indeed make a difference. The Raven benefited this year because they sucked last year. In the Bengals last Super Bowl appearance, their schedule was an easy one. But you can't blame it all on who they had to play this season.
Truth is, it pains me to admit this, the team isn't that good . . . yet. I really believe they're on the verge, but they desperately need some kind of defensive help to make it to that next level. But many fans are eager to jump off the Marvin bandwagon without looking at the big picture.
I say, give it another season or two. I'd be shocked if they're not a playoff team again next year.
We still have one of the best quarterbacks in the league. It's amazing that he bounced back to play like he did this year [see Dante Culpepper]. With Carson at 100% again, a team that was truly humbled this year, and an easier schedule, it'll all be good.
In Marvin I trust.