The Cincinnati Bengals just suffered another play off loss. Of course Bengals fans are already calling for a GM, new coaches, and another QB. This team, however, is a team on the rise, as most serious football fans can see.
Owner Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis have effectively put together a very solid core of young, talented players. Andy Dalton has put up numbers that rival the best QBs in history during his first two years. Stats like being the only quarterback not named Dan Marino or Payton Manning to pass for more than 20 touchdowns each of his first two seasons.
A.J. Green, also in his second season, is being touted all through the NFL as the next elite wide out. TE Jermaine Gresham has ranked among the league's best tight ends in every major category since entering the league just three years ago. Bringing in "The Law Firm" BenJarvis Green-Ellis, was an intelligent move, considering the nearly 1,100 yards he compiled during the season. Obviously, he couldn't have managed that feat without his stellar O-line, consistently ranked among the top five in the NFL and anchored by veteran LT Andrew Whitworth, who has been one of the AFC's top tackles since winning the starting job.
On the other side of the ball, the D-line is the most star studded piece of the puzzle with an 8+ man rotation many analysts call the best in football. DT Geno Atkins has arguably become the league's best pass rushing, interior defensive lineman, earning Pro Bowl nods in each of the last two seasons. He doesn't do it by himself. He has playmakers like Carlos Dunlap and run stuffer Domata Peko as well as DE Micheal Johnson who combined with Atkins as the first pair to record double digit sacks in a Bengals season in over 30 years.
If this article is beginning to look like the Bengals' roster, it's because there doesn't seem to be a position on the field without a quality player. There are a lot more guys who have earned the right to be mentioned but, for now, can continue to let their play on the field speak for them. These players are being molded into a tight knit team by high quality position coaches, along with defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer, who has single handedly changed the culture of defense in Cincinnati, and offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden, who's aggressive play calling at times this season made fans want to throw him a ticker tape parade. Both coordinators ought to have shots at head coaching jobs soon.
Former Super Bowl winning GM, Charles Casserly of NFL Network stated that the Cincinnati Bengals were a model of how to manage a football team. This organization wouldn't be denied the post season last year even when they couldn't overcome the division rival Steelers or Ravens. This year not only did they make the playoffs again, but they did it by defeating Pittsburgh in week 16 and Baltimore in week 17. The Pittsburgh win came one the road in Heinz Field, clinching a playoff berth for the Bengals while eliminating the Steelers from playoff contention and preventing them from finishing the season with a winning record.
The Steelers have some serious age issues among their stars and with a lack of up-and-coming talent to replace them, Pittsburgh could be starting down the road to rebuilding. Baltimore has some age issues as well. Replacing the leadership and inspiration of retiring legend, Ray Lewis, will not prove to be an easy task. Neither of these proud programs will go quietly into the night, but this young Cincinnati team could be on the cusp of greatness. They'll have to get some play off wins to get the respect they want,but this team looks like it may have plenty of opportunities. Instead of calling for heads to roll in Cincinnati, Bengals fans should start buying tickets and filling those empty seats. They might be hard to come by in the near future.