Since Marvin Lewis arrived in Cincinnati in 2003, the Bengals have shown flashes of hope to their fans, only to disappoint on a regular basis. A promising 11-5 season in 2005 that included a playoff berth spawned 3 straight seasons of regression. Another playoff invite in 2009 was quickly dashed the following year as the Bengals dropped to 4-12. The constants throughout all those seasons have been Lewis and owner Mike Brown. 

While Lewis enjoys the non-meddling ownership that Brown provides, critics of the franchise cite both Brown and Lewis for the team’s failure to realize potential and build upon past success. Brown is heavily barraged in many circles for having little to no business skills when it comes to minding a salary cap, and a lack of accountability for the good young talent that has been acquired for Lewis to coach. Lewis, who took the job after winning a Super Bowl as a DC in Baltimore, has had 8 years to prove he can build a contender on his own, and the results have been mixed to say the least. 

In 2011, Lewis’ 9th year at the helm, changes would sweep across the landscape of Cincinnati, bringing with them yet another cause for hope, albeit with much caution from their long teased and disappointed fans.

Here are the top 5 stories of the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals: 

5. Brown family stock purchase- In December of 2011, the brown family announced the purchase of the last of the majority stock that was still owned by outside partners, namely the estate of Austin Knowlton, who was a co-founder of the team with Paul Brown in 1968. The move further entrenches the Browns as the team’s sole owner, much to the chagrin of longtime Bengal fans, who have witnessed just 9 playoff appearances in their 44 years of rooting on the team. 

4. Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson Trade- After 10 season, 750 plus receptions, and much dancing and talking into the microphone, Chad Ochocinco, long the media magnet of this talented but undisciplined squad, was traded in July to the New England Patriots. The move served notice that big changes were happening in Cincinnati, and also brought Brown and Lewis in line to field even more criticism for letting go a mainstay of the meager success the Bengals had enjoyed in that time. 

3. A.J.Green- The Bengals drafted this University of Georgia standout in April with the 4th overall pick. Big things were expected of this 6’4,  211 lb. former Bulldog, and he did not disappoint. Although Green suffered a couple injuries that kept him out part of his rookie campaign, after 14 games he has caught 63 balls for over 1000 yards, and displayed the awesome athleticism that was lost with the aging Ochocinco. This guy should be a Pro Bowler for years to come.

2. The defection of Carson Palmer- In one of the ugliest feuds in Bengal history, Palmer was denied his request to be traded following the dismal 4-12 season of 2010. Palmer claimed he would rather retire than suit up again under the ownership of Mike Brown, and Brown refused to budge on the request for a trade. The standoff lasted all summer through the NFL lockout, and Palmer was finally traded in October to the Oakland Raiders, ending a tumultuous career in Cincinnati. 

1. Andy Dalton- As the drafting of Green was the ushering in of the new blood to replace the old, the drafting of Andy Dalton out of TCU in the 2nd round served notice that the Bengals planned to move in a new direction at quarterback. Dalton has been everything Lewis and the Bengals could have hoped, leading the team to a 9-6 record thus far in his rookie season. Dalton has thrown for 3166 yards and 20 TD’s, and the Bengals offense has young weapons to complement him at wide receiver and tight end, along with a solid running back in Cedric Benson. Dalton’s play along with the infusion of young talent gives signs of hope to the beleaguered fans in Cincinnati, but one has to wonder if the leadership will squander that talent like they have in the past 9 years under Marvin Lewis.