Are we living in some kind of strange new world where down is up, dogs live in harmony with cats and the Bengals are a well-run organization? Because it appears that the Bengals, long the butt of jokes not just here in Cincinnati, but nationwide, are making — gasp — sensible and shrewd decisions.
In the past week or so, there was finality on the two biggest moves away from the mid-2000s Bengal semi-glory days into the new era of Bengaldom.
First, the Patriots released Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati’s former hero-turned-heel-turned-hero-turned-mascot, signaling a clear victory for the local eleven. Mike Brown and Co. in essence received a young receiver, Marvin Jones, who can also return kicks, and a 2013 sixth-round pick in exchange for Ochocinco. The Patriots, long viewed as the organization that doesn’t make mistakes, gave away two young (and more importantly in the NFL, cheap) players for 15 catches and a touchdown out of Ochocinco — not to mention the headaches that come with the attention-seeking wideout.
And then there’s the Carson Palmer trade. The Bengals did not receive a second first-round pick from the trade and it was recently reported the team will only get a 2013 second-round pick. But second-round picks in the NFL are extremely valuable. In recent years the Bengals have picked quarterback Andy Dalton and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth in the second round, among others. While there had been hope the Bengals would get another first-round pick from the Palmer deal, getting rid of a player who was digging his heels in and not going to play for you — and who you were kind of over, anyway — and getting a first (used on cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick) and second round pick in exchange? Well, that’s not too shabby.
Add those moves to what was widely considered to be the best draft class in the NFL in April’s draft, and there’s a lot to be excited about.
The team also wisely let go of a beloved leader in the locker room, guard Bobbie Williams, but did so in the offseason instead of bringing in a veteran to training camp that had no chance to make the squad, like its unceremonious booting of Willie Anderson several years ago.
Like Anderson, Williams went to a division rival, but unlike Anderson, there are no hard feelings between the two sides and younger players won’t be watching Williams’ locker get cleaned out and wondering if they’ll be dispensed in similar fashion in the future. (To be sure, there were some differences in the contract status between Williams — an unrestricted free agent — and Anderson, who had been signed. But when watching a favorite teammate leave, those minor points are moot.)
It makes me think back to that disastrous press conference following the 2010 season. Marvin Lewis sat at a podium defiant and with his tail apparently between his legs, crawling back to Brown and the Bengals. Instead, in retrospect, it appears Lewis and Brown knew exactly what they were doing. The two sides didn’t want to make their moves or changes in public, and at the timed seem combative and in denial. But in retrospect, they obviously made some changes, whether it was the two added scouts, more involvement from Katie Blackburn or even a louder voice or veto power from Lewis himself, what was done seems to have made a difference. Brown and Lewis didn’t win that press conference, that’s for sure, but what they said was that things would improve. They didn’t give the details that we’d all like, but they did deliver results.
There’s plenty more the team has to prove, like maybe back-to-back winning seasons or a playoff victory — two things that haven’t happened in a long, long time. But for as much-deserved criticism the team has received in the past for the way it conducts its business, there has to be at least some tip of the cap for what appears to be movement in the right direction.
Thinking Out Loud:
It’s amazing how two outings can make Superman look human. Aroldis Chapman wasn’t going to go the whole season without giving up an earned run, but now that he’s shown he’s not invincible, others might not believe he is. ... The Pirates are a great story, but it’s amazing how many people forget they were a great story last year, as well. Remember, Pittsburgh was tied for first place in the NL Central as late as July 25 last season, before going 19-43 the rest of the season. Baseball’s a long season. ... I mentioned above that Bengals guard Bobbie Williams is headed to the Ravens, and how it’s probably the right decision from a football standpoint. That said, selfishly I’m going to miss the guy. Williams was one of the nicest human beings you’ll meet, a treat to deal with in victory and defeat. Good luck to him and his family.
CONTACT C. TRENT ROSECRANS: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ctrent