Bengals fans, get ready: 2018 will bring a new head coach to Cincinnati AND a new starting quarterback.
I’m just telling you this now to get you ready. No, I am not from the future, but the pieces have been set on the board and the duo of Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton are in check.
The last offseason brought two dynamic playmakers to Cincinnati on the offensive side of the ball and two pass rushers on the defensive side, all via the Draft. It also saw the two most impactful offensive linemen in orange and black leave. It is currently labeled an overreaction, but in the coming weeks it will become clear, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler going to different teams was the most important thing to happen to the Bengals in 2017. Important because it set them up for a much needed regime change.
“Well, didn’t the front office foresee this? Why didn’t they have a contingency plan?” you may ask. That is where my theory begins.
Knowing Mike Brown was comfortable with the current regime and would not make a change without overwhelming evidence (as proven by Marvin Lewis not being fired after a disappointing 2016 season), Katie Blackburn got her friend Duke Tobin together and hatched a plan.
The two stalwarts on the Bengals’ offensive line were coming to the end of their contracts. Zeitler was going to command a hefty pay raise, one the Bengals were not going to give due to their philosophy of not paying guards lucrative money. Whitworth, on the other hand, was a fan favorite and the unquestioned leader of the offensive line at left tackle. He was moving into the twilight of his career, though, meaning a lowball-type offer could be explained.
So, the front office moved to offer Whit a contract they knew he would turn down and failed to make a better offer once the Rams moved in to sign. They also neglected to even put forth an offer to Zeitler, letting both go. Duke Tobin proceeded to assure anyone wary of the situation that the necessary replacements were in-house, advising that the team, instead, focus on upgrading the skill positions.
They did not set the team up to fail, but they chose the path with success being the least likely outcome.
AJ Green, Tyler Eifert, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross are all dynamic players…when they have the ball in their hands. AJ runs some of the best routes, and is able shake off any cornerback, in the game…but it doesn’t matter if Andy is on the ground in the backfield with the ball still in his hands. “But Andy had the quickest release in the NFL last year!” you argue. Let me show you something, per Pro Football Focus.
Andy is a bottom-half of the league ranked quarterback under pressure. His average QB rating of 91.8 last year fell to 57.1 while under pressure. Last season the o-line, with Whit and Zeitler, allowed the sixth-fewest amount of plays in which Dalton was under pressure. He was sacked on 22% of those plays, however, which is the worst percentage in the league. That’s with an average offensive line covering for him. If you ask any NFL “expert” you will find that the Bengals have one of the worst rated offensive lines in the league. The amount of plays Andy is under pressure will go up, meaning his effectiveness will stay down.
Dalton will have his worst season in five years and he replaced.
Now they are athletes, after all, and they can improve. The game isn’t played on paper. Any given Sunday…blah, blah, blah. These Bengals were built so that the most likely outcome would be a 4-5 win season and a regime change.
Tell me I’m wrong until you are blue in the face, but I will defend this theory until I am proven wrong.