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Why Your Team Sucks

Why Your Team Sucks 2021: Cincinnati Bengals

CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 28: Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals calls out instructions during training camp on July 28, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Some people are fans of the Cincinnati Bengals. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Cincinnati Bengals. This 2021 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.

Your team: Cincinnati Bengals. “OH HE MISSED! HE MISSED! OH HE MAY HAVE PULLED A HAMSTRING!”

Your 2020 record: 4-11-1. That tie? ELECTRIC.

Normally, when you draft a quarterback No. 1 after going 2-14, fans have a right to expect flashes of potential the following season. The 2020 Bengals offered NO such flashes. At all. Not even when they beat the Steelers. When the Bengals won that game, my main takeaway was HOLY SHIT THE STEELERS ARE FRAUDS. There are a handful of NFL teams who exist merely as gauges for the badness of other teams. The Bengals are one such team. They even went out of their way to make sure Joe Burrow’s knee got folded up like a fucking card table.

Here’s a fun fact for you. Since 1991, the Cleveland Browns have more playoff victories (two) than the Bengals (zero).

Your coach: Ever have a young conservative challenge you to a debate on Twitter? Here’s what that guy looks like 100 percent of the time:

“Critical race theory? More like criticizing white people theory.”

If Zac Taylor is still here a year from now, it won’t be because he’s good.  It’ll be because team owner and boiled skin balloon Mike Brown doesn’t give a shit either way.

“Our fans wanted a fresh new direction two years ago, and that is what we aimed to do in hiring a bright, energetic head coach in Zac Taylor.”

And you failed. But here Zac Taylor remains. I see no brightness. I see no energy. I see only a polo shirt coasting by on his grade-school looks and his penchant for cozying up to the NFL’s white boy insiders crew, with Sports Illustrated pissbag Albert Breer as the head mark:

I thought this was a really interesting and creative thing that Taylor and his staff did with the team as a group—and a way of tapping into the ethos of that generation. The coaches split the roster into nine teams—seven groups of nine and two groups of 10. To get there, they had a draft… Once the teams were assembled, for each week, the coaches would assign a video project. One week, the teams had to put together a rap video, another it was a TikTok video.

If you wanna know why Zac Taylor’s name doesn’t grace quite as many Hot Seat listicles as, say, Mike McCarthy’s, you now have your answer. All Taylor has to do is be friends with the right assholes. That way, he gets softer press coverage than Obama does, and Breer gets to break word to the general public that HEY YO THIS FRESH DOPE COACH IS MAKIN’ HELLA RAP VIDEOS. Everyone (except the Bengals) wins. I’m honestly shocked that other head coaches don’t crib from Zac’s image playbook. It’s the only worthwhile playbook he has.

In other news … look! You guys have a scout now! LOOK OUT, 20TH CENTURY!

Not pictured, not actually existent: a monitor

Mike Brown won’t even spring for a wireless remote control. That’s what we in the National Football League call “the winning edge.”

Do they have a Guy on the coaching staff? They do not, unless you want to dig into the pool of coaching Guys for former The U head man Al Golden. If we’re lucky, the Bengals will recruit Randy Shannon to come aboard midseason.

Your quarterback: It’s Joe Burrow, assuming that Joe Burrow is still alive when the season begins.  The Bengals you see on paper before the season are never the Bengals you see on the field three months later. Right now you’re looking at this roster like, “Oh wow! Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon and Ja’Marr Chase OH MY! I bet this team could win a lot of games and get me laid!” Then November rolls around and you look up, and Burrow is out with a dislocated ballbag, Mixon is on the exempt list after punching a veteran and stealing his leg prosthesis, and Chase has been inexplicably benched for James Thrash III. This organization is where reality hits hardest.

By the way, this is the last year of everyone feeling sorry for Burrow before realizing that he’s probably just not that good.

What’s new that sucks: In the grand tradition of teams unveiling new uniforms that look like their old uniforms, the Bengals have new old uniforms.

Sponsored by Tide! For when your old man drops a payload of Skyline into his Fruit of the Looms! Say what you will about Tide, they always know which fanbase will have the most stains to wash out.

On the field, all the key pieces of the Marvin Lewis Bengals are now gone. No more Gio Bernard. No more AJ Green. No more Geno Atkins. If you were a fan during the Lewis years, you’re probably jazzed about the fresh start. A new, trashy orange dawn awaits you. But again, we must account for reality, which tells us that the Bengals will never have it better than they did under Lewis, when they went to a wild card game every year and lost to, like, TJ Yates. That was Cincy at its very best: a team talented enough to occasionally resemble the Atlanta Falcons. 

By contrast, this new iteration of the Bengals is like watching a small child die. They drafted Jackson Carman and signed Riley Reiff in a half-hearted attempt to prevent Burrow from having his skullplates rearranged by Myles Garrett, but nothing can stop what’s coming for my poor son. Elsewhere, the Bengals have no tight ends. The defense is horrifying. They still can’t pass block. Their biggest defensive free agent signing was Eli Apple. This is a nothing team that will lose 10-plus games a year for the rest of the decade and will use HEY IT’S OUR FIRST DAY HERE! as its excuse for every single defeat. Zac Taylor will still be coaching this team for food stamps when he’s 56, and Albert Breer will marvel at his youthful ability to hang out with his players on Discord.

What has always sucked: Also new this year will be the Bengals’ Ring of Honor, which will be unveiled on—you guessed it—a Thursday night, against—you guessed it again!—the Jaguars. Yes, it took 54 years for the Bengals to have enough “legends” to create a Ring of Honor, and guess what? They STILL don’t have enough legends for it. Look at this sorry-ass list of nominees they dredged up after making Paul Brown and Anthony Munoz shoo-ins:

  • Ken Anderson
  • Willie Anderson
  • Jim Breech
  • James Brooks
  • Cris Collinsworth
  • Isaac Curtis
  • Corey Dillon
  • Boomer Esiason
  • David Fulcher
  • Chad Johnson
  • Tim Krumrie
  • Dave Lapham
  • Max Montoya
  • Lemar Parrish
  • Ken Riley
  • Bob Trumpy
  • Reggie Williams

Normally I fill these previews with deliberately bleak lists, like the Bears’ quarterback history.  But here we have the BEST the Bengals have had to offer for over half a century, and it’s like staring at Henry Kissinger’s asshole. Cris Collinsworth couldn’t sniff the Hall even if you laid Sean Lee’s jockstrap at its doorstep. Boomer Esiason was less accurate than a nü-Deadspin post. James Brooks won’t even be able to READ his name up on the Ring. Why not add Stanley Wilson to this list while you’re at it, Mikey? I hate this team. This is the team that killed Bo Jackson and history will never, and should never, forgive them for it. Its last competent quarterback hasn’t played here in 10 years and still takes unprovoked shots at the team whenever he gets a chance. And they play in a city that’s somehow less cool than Cleveland, featuring chili that doubles as the before shot in a Tide ad.

I would like the NFL to create a G League specifically so that they can relegate the Bengals to it.

Ratto says: Joe Burrow begins his second rookie year and discovers, yes, his knee will never work quite right ever again. These are the Bengals, and even new uniforms cannot change that. Nepotism update: Mike Brown is the owner, his daughter Katie Blackburn is the executive vice-president, Troy Blackburn, Katie’s husband, is the vice-president, and Fido Blackburn, the dog, is special teams coordinator. BEST NAME TO HEAR ON TV: Xavier Su’a-Filo, no relation.

What might not suck: I don’t know why every NFL team doesn’t draft an LSU wideout in the first round every year. They’re like a fucking rabbit’s foot.

HEAR IT FROM BENGALS FANS!

Alex:

It’s never a good thing when John Oliver references something in your hometown.

Andy:

Mike Brown getting through 2020 without dying from COVID makes me question my faith.

Cameron:

We’ll be out of the playoff hunt by Halloween.

Bradley:

The most exciting thing to happen to the team this offseason was the announcement we can use white helmets in the Color Rush game in 2022.

Marcus:

Do you know how many people north of Cincinnati are Steelers fans because Big Innocent Ben went to Miami? We can’t even create a real rivalry and when we try to half the fucking region just roots for the other team anyway.

Cody:

Can’t wait to open the season by losing to our ex-Defensive Coordinator as his eye secedes from its orbital bone.

Austin:

Everyone assumes the Bengals got a franchise quarterback in the 2020 Draft because he blew the doors off college football in precisely one feel-good season where LSU’s system, personnel, schedule, and luck all fell into place. It almost makes you forget that Joe Burrow lost a QB battle to Dwayne Haskins.

The brass in the Queen City decided that quarterbacks don’t need protection, and it makes the fact that Burrow survived 10 games last season running for his life and playing pretty well almost seem like a miracle. Instead of snagging one of two generational offensive linemen in a weak draft, the brain trust of Kentucky’s finest exclave opted to get Joe’s old receiving sidekick from college. 

I could hurl blame at Joe Montana or Joey Porter or Kimo von Oelhoffen or the Silverdome’s turf or the curse of Bo Jackson’s hip for the woes of my beloved Bengals during my lifetime, but ultimately this is my fault. I’m from Columbus. I could have chosen the Browns, or the Bears of my adopted hometown of Chicago. But, at the end of the day, I guess I’d rather pull for the team who skimps on scouting and employs a sentient Yeti cooler as a head coach. Zac Taylor has ten sportcoats in his closet and zero ties. 

Chris:

Drafting and then starting a great new quarterback without ANY kind of functioning offensive line is like buying a brand new Ferrari and then parking it on the street underneath a tree hemorrhaging both sap and bird shit.

Thomas:

We haven’t won a playoff game since college was affordable.

Sean:

The last time the Bengals won a playoff game I was three years old. I’m now 34 years old. It’s essentially masochism at this point, man.

John:

The Bengals are little more than a public-money-stealing shell company and the Brown family simply the Trumps with less class, style, and sense of civic responsibility. 

Brian:

Because Joe Burrow was naive enough to think that the game-tying field goal attempt by Randy Bullock in his NFL debut was going to go in, only for him to realize in the matter of seconds afterwards that these are the Cincinnati Bengals and this is the future he has ahead of him.

Ryan:

Bengals Twitter. Holy shit. They shit on players constantly unless that player is Tyler Eifert.

Paul:

Zac Taylor being a head coach is quietly the dumbest thing that’s ever happened in the NFL. He got his foot in the coaching door because he has some connection with Mike Sherman. He failed as an OC in college at Cincinnati and he and Tommy Tuberville got ran out of town. Then he latches on to McVay, somehow gets shine as the QB coach for Jared Goff, and ends up as our head coach. Lots of people in Cincy think he’s gonna turn it around this year. It’s insane. I hate it.

Kevin:

Joe Burrow is the absolute coolest thing to happen to Cincinnati sports since the Big Red Machine and we are absolutely 100% going to waste his career. 

Alex:

Even after all that, every single part of me wanted Ja’marr Chase over Penei Sewell.

John:

I abandoned the Bengals, the only NFL team I ever loved, three years ago as part of a broader NFL minimization lifestyle strategy, and it’s the best decision I’ve made in 38 years as a sports fan. I can’t recommend it highly enough. My life has improved every single day since the last time I gave a shit about this horseshit franchise. They don’t deserve anybody’s fandom and won’t ever pay it off as long as Mike Brown, who wishes he was as cool as Sheldon Adelson, is still alive.

Zac Taylor should be managing a Starbucks, not coaching professional football. Joe Burrow had better facilities and resources at LSU than he has as a pro.

Fuck Joey Porter forever, I hope he spends the rest of his days as Big Ben’s nursing home jizz mopper.

Chris:

I live over 2,000 miles away from Cincy. While walking the dog recently, I spotted a car parked in our neighborhood with a small Bengals sticker in the back window. It is now my mission to find the owner and simply ask them “Why?!” I’m sure this will go well.

Patrick:

The best-case scenario for Burrow at this point is that he follows the Carson Palmer blueprint–it’s a given that he’ll suffer a debilitating injury at some point (almost certainly against the Steelers!), so his best hope is to force his way out of Cincinnati after he recovers. I’m looking forward to rooting for him on another team in the 2030 Super Bowl, when he loses a heartbreaker to Tom Brady.

Bryce:

The last time we were at a Bengals game, an old couple (like 30 years our senior) tried to fight us. They were fellow Bengal fans. We went on to lose to four TDs from Trevor fucking Siemian.

Cameron:

All Zac has been doing for two years is building this great culture he says on a weekly basis is improving and on the way up, yet this moron’s record is 6-25-1. 

Chris:

Watching Joe get sacked eight times a game felt like a personal insult.

Fuck Mike Brown with his father’s dead dick. Fuck Zac Taylor with the K missing from his name. Fuck the Steelers you lost to Ryan Finley you dipshits.

Russell:

During the week one game against the Chargers, Randy Bullock was lining up for a field goal that your average cardboard cutout fan could make. I know how this shit goes. I was in a bar watching the game (yes, I recognize it was during the pandemic and I realize that’s a problem), and out loud, I said, “If Bullock misses this field goal, this chair is going to hit someone in the head.”

The kick flew two time zones past the right upright. I promptly hit myself in the head with that chair.

Brian:

Joe Burrow’s kneecaps will be the consistency of Skyline by Week 6.

Harrison:

After the Jeremy Hill fumble I got so blistering drunk and unruly I had to be forced to bed. Upon laying my head on the pillow, 27-year-old me immediately began sobbing at the injustice of my Bengals fandom. A more cathartic cry I’ve never experienced. I woke up refreshed, slightly embarrassed and completely apathetic to this team’s fortune from there on. Remarkably liberating.  

Still, fuck Ben Roethlisberger with the motorcycle tailpipe he totaled.  

Paul:

I would rather wake up in the middle of a Saw movie than take the field behind the Bengals line. The survival rate is likely similar.

Zac Taylor should fuck off to the berry patch the father of that shitty corner we signed got lost in.

Sean:

I met my future wife at a Bengals game. Meeting a cute girl at Paul Brown Stadium might be the biggest upset in sports history because Paul Brown Stadium is the beach in “Old.” 

Brendan:

I watched every game last year and honestly couldn’t tell you a single fucking thing that happened, other than Joe Burrow nearly becoming an amputee in Washington. That leaves about 959 minutes and 57 seconds of football I legitimately can’t account for. 

And yet, the moment the 2021 schedule came out and showed when the Bengals played the Raiders, I booked my flight to Vegas like an asshole. I bitch and balk at spending 40 bucks to go to a game literally down the street from where I work, but I’ll spend an ungodly amount of money without batting an eye to watch us suck 2,000 miles away.

Fuck me and fuck this team with edges of the 2010 Antonio Bryant contract. People don’t forget.

Marcus:

Last year you split my letter into two separate entries to make this perpetual embarrassment seem to have more fans than it does. In a column making fun of the Bengals you felt like you had to make us look better than we are.

Sam:

January 8th, 2006: I am five years old and as unaware of sports as most five year olds are. But I know that the Cincinnati Bengals are the good guys and the Pittsburgh Steelers are the bad guys, and that my dad is very excited for the playoff game. He and my mom even bought my little brother and I matching TJ Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson jerseys! I cram onto the couch with my family. Almost immediately, Carson Palmer throws a really long pass down the field and all four of us yell in excitement! Until we see that he’s on the ground. A Steeler has torn his leg into tissue paper. The Bengals lose. A few weeks later, the Steelers win the Super Bowl. The 2005 NFL playoffs are the first time I experience what it means to be a Cincinnati sports fan.

November 22nd, 2020: I am 20 years old, and have lived through 15 conscious years of Cincinnati sports (the Reds blowing all three games at home to lose to the Giants in 5. Jeremy Hill’s fumble, etc, etc.). I’m watching the Bengals/WFTs game with my family. Joe Burrow has given us hope for the first time in half a decade. One play, he throws the ball, and when the camera pans back to him, we see that he’s on the ground. I immediately know his season is over. My family freaks out. I don’t. I’ve seen this before, almost beat for beat. I just sigh.

John:

I live in NYC and often go to the singular Bengals bar, Phebes (most teams have like five bars to choose from), which from my understanding has no original ties to the city, and was simply commandeered years ago by a few Bengals fans; they’ve luckily (and, likely, begrudgingly) decided to lean into it and do a decent job.

Every year I meet at least one person not from Cincinnati and with no lineage to Porkopolis (yes the city was once infested with pigs) that chose to be a Bengals fan. I feel two things simultaneously when learning this: “Cool, someone chose us”, and also “I do not trust this person’s judgement or general personality.” I avoid them like the plague the rest of the game while Dre Kirkpatrick gets abused by Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Skyline is good though, fuckers.

Ben:

We fired Marvin Lewis ten years too late because he couldn’t win a playoff game and replaced him with a guy who has had the team out of playoff contention by week 4 in both his seasons.

We brought back the defensive coordinator that gave up every lead Joe Burrow could ever gain.

When Burrow finally got taken out for the season in a move every NFL fan saw coming from a mile away, I was at the playground with my kids and got the alert on my phone, shook my head and put my phone back in my pocket.

Submissions for the NFL previews are already closed, alas. Next up: Philadelphia Eagles.