Bengals Optimism Postponed

During this time in which I’ve neglected this space, I joined a gym. Figuring it was time to try and offset *some* of the ballpark food, Skyline Chili, and Taco Bell that I regularly consume, my wife dragged me to (no free ads) gym. We sat down with a trainer, came up with these things called “goals”, and found out its going to take awhile to attain said “goals.” Not going to lie to you, that period of time that is said to take awhile is taking awhile.

Which got me thinking about my favorite football team and their offseason. The Cincinnati Bengals began this offseason with the promise of new horizons. They didn’t necessarily promise better horizons, but after having spent my entire football-comprehending life with the same Bengals head coach, new sounded awesome. Here’s the rub, with the promise of new horizons comes the promise that positive horizons may take awhile.

Much like pacing in place on a treadmill or moving parts of weighted machines, the various decisions and machinations of the Bengals during this offseason have been a bit laborious.

They’ve all but signed a contract extension with Andy Dalton, when it comes to committing to who is the definition of an average QB. They passed on multiple chances to acquire the franchise’s future QB and instead settling for a kid (Ryan Finley) who figures to be the next AJ McCarron. They used the free agent period to bring back everyone from last year’s team who managed to lose more games than they won and even when they brought in a new face, it was a guy who’s name sounds almost fake (John Miller). Their biggest acquisition to fill their most underachieving position (linebacker) was a third round pick (Germaine Pratt). All the while pushing the hashtag “New Dey” and promising things will be different.

Now, believe me, they had to do this. Paul Brown Stadium was barren, fans had moved past the upset phase into apathy, and the franchise’s most popular player (AJ Green) even seemed disenchanted. But how much did they really change? Again, the bulk of this evaluation will take awhile, because we have to see what it’s like during game day.

They’re profiling as a run-heavy, control the clock, keep our defense off the field-type team, but that has been the offseason mantra before. I’m inclined to believe it may be closer to this with a new coaching staff, so we’ll see, but they aren’t preaching any new offseason sermon, here. A historically bad defense added new talent whose grades were no better than third round draft choices, and all are rookies. All of that leads back to what the scheme will be like which, again, will take awhile to understand.

So, with a promise of new comes, instead of positive vibes and feeling of excitement, a feeling of uneasiness and uncertainty as to the direction of the team. As it sits on paper, this team is going to have to be REALLY good on offense to make up for its defense. With an offensive-minded coach, who knows? Maybe that happens. However, Zac Taylor has never held the clipboard for an entire season and with the well-publicized selectiveness of who his defensive coordinator would be, he’s also put a lot of pressure on himself before his horse is even at the starting gate. So as for my optimism about the Bengals, much like my current feeling towards the gym, it’s going to take awhile.

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Zac Taylor: Five Burning Questions

The Cincinnati Bengals made it official and signed Zac Taylor to be the 10th coach in franchise history. Right out of the gate he has a myriad of questions to answer. Most of them cannot be answered for another 10 months. Some of them can be answered this week. All of them need to be answered, at some point. Here are the big ones.

1.      Who will be his defensive coordinator?

This one is the most obvious question because it’s been a most obvious weakness, the past few years. It also has some mustard to it, because the next D-coordinator needs to be a little experienced. Think Wade Phillips with Sean McVay-type pairing. The experienced candidate would be a wise, Obi-Wan-type guy who Taylor can lean on, and who can reign in Vontaze Burfict.

It also needs to be a guy with some new ideas. Now this is my personal thought, but Dom Capers has been rumored, and some have recoiled from that, sighting his 3-4 scheme. The Bengals have run a 4-3 scheme since before Marvin Lewis came to town. Now might be a good time to try something new, though. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t completely prepared for it. Their linebackers need overhauling for this idea to work. But that can happen. They already have two guys who could make the change work, in-house, in Malik Jefferson and Carl Lawson. What they don’t have are middle linebackers. They could address that in the draft, but that’s a thought for another blog post. Suffice it to say, they shouldn’t rule out Capers simply because his scheme is a bit different from what they’re used to.

2.      Who is his quarterback, beyond 2019?

This upcoming season is crucial, not only for the Bengals coach, but also for the Bengals QB. Andy Dalton is getting a little older and, by most accounts, has plateaued in his professional development. Can Taylor and his new offensive staff inject some sort of new life into Dalton’s Bengals career, or are his stripes so worn from the last years of Marvin Lewis that a new guy is needed, altogether? Some, myself included, believe that Andy is right there in the middle of the pack, as far as NFL QB rankings go. Not bad, but not great. Maybe Taylor is just what the doctor ordered for him to find that next gear. Or maybe the Bengals meet their franchise QB on April 25? Time will tell.

3.      Does he like Skyline, or Gold Star?

One makes okay chili and is the sponsor of the Bengals and the other is awesome and is named Skyline. Will he be a pawn of corporate contractual obligation, or will he be the free-thinker with a wise pallet that we all think he can be?

4.       Will he quietly do a better job?

We’ve been hearing how important it is to do a better job for 16 years now. Will Taylor have the wherewithal to complete the task without reminding us of the objective each week?

5.      Will he be able to improve Tanya O’Rourke’s golf game?

Quite possibly the most important accomplishment of any NFL head coach is how he imparts his knowledge of the links onto the local news anchor. This is what will earn him his contract extensions for years to come.

The first year of Taylor’s tenure is fraught with excitement and peril. I’ll be all over each development as we look forward to a new era in Bengals football.

Thinking Out Loud on Paper

Got the house to myself, for the day, and my mind has a few things on it, but none of them could really fill out an entire blog post, so I’m combining them.

I love the idea of Zac Taylor. It looks like the Rams QB coach need only dot some T’s and cross some I’s and he’ll be the Bengals next head coach. I love the thought of new things for my favorite NFL team. They’ve been stale, for awhile, and an infusion of fresh-thinking is just what the doctor ordered. Some are saying this could revolutionize Andy Dalton. I don’t know about that, but new thinking could change his career. Currently he, and the Bengals, have been the definition of mediocre for years. Just good enough to not be bad enough. The man, himself, Taylor has limited experience, and a checkered resume in the eyes of Cincinnati sports fans, but he’s not Marvin Lewis of Hue Jackson. For that reason, I am really excited for everything that is about to happen at Paul Brown Stadium.

Mid-major basketball is my favorite regular-season college basketball to watch. It’s usually pretty nip and tuck, both teams carry the identity of their coach instead of their star players, and for all but one in their conference, they’re not guaranteed action in March. At time of writing, I am watching the second half of Kent State and Ball State with Seton Hall and Butler waiting in the wings to switch to on commercials. Plus, there’s always that little glimmer of information to gather for bracket picking…that will inevitably lead to me making a dumb upset pick. College basketball rocks.

I really enjoy playing video games, but I’ve met enough people to know that I am not a “gamer.” With that being said, I feel like the culture of video games, for the last decade-and-a-half, really, has leaned heavily on first-person shooters. I think my personal video game taste has undergone that whole periodic taste change, thing, in that I don’t like FPS-style games, any more. I love adventure games, and sports games, but I don’t like FPS. Is that allowed? Maybe I’m moving past video games? This is weird to me, but I just can’t with FPS anymore.

I also hate trying to “correctly” hang jeans, but that’s neither here nor there.

Looking forward to checking out a new place in Middletown next week called the Swire Inn. It’s brand new and it’s a pub. My expectations are a little slice of heaven. Are they too high, probably, but I will most likely blog about my experience, so stay tuned.