For years, the Cleveland Browns were regarded as the worst team in the NFL, not winning a single game in 2017 and winning just one the season before.
And in 2019, Ohio again had claims to the worst team, but this time, it wasn’t the Browns. The Cincinnati Bengals will have the first-round draft pick for the 2020 season, but it comes as a result of their 2-14 record and their position at the very bottom of the standings. Their only victories came against the Browns and the Jets, teams that had lackluster records themselves.
But what exactly went wrong for the Bengals this year? They were never the best team in the league, and their historical playoff percentage is low at 27%, but what happened to make this season even worse?
Coaching Changes and Roster Choices
One of the biggest changes the Bengals experienced in the 2019 season was concerning their head coach. 15-year head coach Marvin Lewis was replaced by Zac Taylor, the second-youngest head coach in NFL history. A major change such as that one always takes getting used to, but this is especially so when the replacement coach has had little professional experience and doesn’t know the players very well.
Coaching changes would have been enough to throw the team off-balance, but there were also changes to the roster. It is extremely important for players to develop chemistry between themselves so they work together better as a team, and when changes are always being made to the roster, making that happen is harder to do.
The Bengals changed out quarterbacks, playing both Andy Dalton and Jeff Driskel. They traded away A.J. McCarron and somewhat controversially resigned players, John Ross and Andre Smith. The players that teams choose to play on game day significantly impact the result and the Bengals didn’t always make the right decisions.
Injuries are a part of every sport, and certain players getting hurt can impact a team more than if other players get hurt. A.J. Green, one of the Bengals’ best and most consistent players, was injured in Week One and didn’t return to playing for the rest of the season. This was a huge loss for the Bengals’ offense. If Green had been able to play, would the Bengals be in the playoffs?
Not necessarily, but they may have won more than two games. Tyler Eifert broke his leg, and other players such as Joe Mixon, John Ross, and Ryan Glasglow also suffered from various injuries throughout the season. Injuries to significant members of the team disrupted any rhythm the Bengals were able to establish and left them without some of their best players.
Other Teams’ Improvements
Of course, some of the things that hurt the Bengals’ success this season were out of their control. Many teams in the league were making improvements in the off-season and throughout the season to help themselves win more games and place higher in the standings. Even teams in the Bengals’ own division, such as the Ravens and the Browns, were able to achieve better records than the Bengals because they utilized their players to the best of their abilities and were simply more organized and lethal on offense and defense.
The Bengals had several issues surrounding their team and the plays they concocted, but other adversities they faced came from the outside. The Cincinnati team couldn’t control how good the Patriots were or what kind of plays the Dolphins chose to use when they played each other.
It may be too much to ask for the Bengals to go to the Super Bowl next year. But with smart draft picks, better coaching, stronger offense and defense, more consistent rosters, and stronger relationships between team members, the Bengals could definitely have a shot at winning more than two games next season.