By Conrad Clowers
Herald Sports Writer
If you’re going to end a miserable season on a positive note, you may as well do it defeating your in-state rival.
This past week the Bengals finished off the Cleveland Browns 33-23. It ended the season for the Bengals, and it likely ended the career of QB Andy Dalton. As the Bengals lost the week before to the Miami Dolphins, the announcer ended the game saying, “Cincinnati, you are officially on the clock for the first pick in the draft.”
Cincinnati had to win its final game to avoid being the worst team in Bengal history. With the victory Cincinnati finished the season 2-14. The record ties the 2002 Bengals of 2-14, which is the worst record in franchise history.
When changes are screaming to be made, the Bengals are notorious for not doing anything. All indications would point to the Bengals picking the best player available in the draft. Joe Burrow, an Ohio native, has had a fairytale season at LSU. He won the Heisman Trophy and is about to play for the national championship.
Should Andy Dalton remain with the Bengals, it would cost the team over $17 million in 2020. The likelihood of that happening is not high.
While the quarterback position is in need of an upgrade, it most definitely is not the only position where changes are in need. Wide receiver A.J Green does not have a contract for next season. If Green is not going to be here, young Burrow would need a sure–handed threat to throw to. Outside of Tyler Boyd, the Bengals had few playmakers on the receiving end.
Whoever the Bengals decide to draft first, it will be like having two first–round picks in 2020. This is because 2019 first–pick Jonah Williams never took one snap after injuring himself in a training camp. The offensive line play was much improved by the end of the season. It was much too late to impact any post-season hopes. A massive overhaul with a few exceptions may be needed.
The defensive side of the ball will need to be addressed as much, if not more, than the offensive side. Mainstays Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap played well in the final quarter of the year.
For the most part of the season the Bengal front four were manhandled week in and week out. The linebacking corps was no exception. Preston Brown didn’t even make it an entire season, as he was released during the middle of the season.
Last season’s second –round pick Germaine Pratt started to shine in the last quarter of the season. Like many rookies, he had a hard time adjusting to the NFL in the beginning. The defensive backfield could not stay healthy. Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson started the season as the starting corners. Neither was healthy in the lineup or active in the last game of the season.
When it comes to the Bengals, expect the expected. For years when change was needed, there was none. Who knows if there will be any this offseason? Owner Mike Brown has always done things his way and that will likely not change. If it doesn’t, well, expect similar or maybe slightly better results in 2020.
One thing about the NFL is that the free agency system allows bad teams to do a 180-degree turn the next season. Can Cincinnati do it? We’ll see. But when you’re 2-14, something needs to change.