Bengals fans know all about excuses. We’ve heard just about every conceivable argument, justification, and alibi for persistent failure over the years. Hell, we’ve invented some of our own just to maintain our collective sanity.
Key injuries? Know all about ‘em.
Coaching staff changes? Yep, that too.
Difficult Schedules? Check.
Holdouts? A timeless classic.
Disruptive players and sideshow distractions? An annual tradition.
Throw in an understaffed personnel department, passivity in free agency, and playing in a tough division. With each lackluster season, we find a few new ones to throw on the pile.
But we’re fresh out. The well, like fan’s patience, has run dry.
Seemingly sensing this, the team has finally responded. Like Rip Van Winkle, the sleeping front office finally hit the snooze button on an alarm clock buzzing since 1993 and sprang to action. They were surprisingly aggressive and shrewd in free agency. They traded for needed talent. They replaced departing players with experienced veteran equivalents. They drafted exceptionally well. In short, they acted very un-Bengal like.
In fact, they upgraded every single position group. The roster is as deep and as talented as it has been in years. Better still, it is a mature roster of professionals, the type of people who can overcome the adversity of a 16 game slugfest with the Steelers and Ravens. Head Coach Marvin Lewis had to concede, almost painfully, that this team is the best he’s ever had from both a talent and a maturity standpoint. This, he says, is finally 100% his team.
They even managed to improve their image and collect a few more fans. Agreeing to being featured on Hard Knocks may have seemed like a bad move by a bad team at the time. Now it looks like a brilliant maneuver. NFL Films used their unique magic to rebrand the franchise, dispel ugly reputations, and reengage the fans. From a purely PR perspective, it was nothing short of genius. The ratings are the best the series has ever had, and they managed to convince us that the coaching staff is competent, the front office is organized, Chad Ochocinco is likable and Mike Brown is human.
Miracles, it seems, do happen.
But one thing remains. Now all these calculated moves and lucky breaks must culminate into on-field success, and it all starts Sunday. They have an almost completely healthy roster (only back-up CB David Jones is out). They have home field advantage in a sold-out stadium, and they are hosting a team in utter disarray. The Bengals will face the limping, bitching soap opera known as the Denver Broncos. Their starting QB has an injured hand and a history of throwing interceptions. Their prized rookie tailback may not play. Their best offensive weapon, WR Brandon Marshall, is fresh off a Chad-esque failed temper tantrum. Their head coach is 33 years old, lacks experience and routinely looks like he’s in over his head.
What more do you want?
All the planets are aligned. All the pieces are in place. On the eve of the 2009 season, there are no excuses.