The Cincinnati Bengals have made the playoffs in five of the last six years, which automatically makes them one of the best teams in the NFL. Unfortunately for them, they have exactly zero playoff wins during that stretch.
Even worse? Cincinnati has lost four of those five games by double digits and failed to score more than 14 points in any of them.
While there’s a lot of blame to go around, quarterback Andy Dalton gets the lion’s share. One touchdown and six interceptions in four playoff games will do that to you.
“I think Andy Dalton is an unusual case,” Bengals color analyst Dave Lapham said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I’m a firm believer in the axiom the quarterback gets too much credit when it goes well and too much blame when it goes poorly. Andy gets all the blame when it goes poorly and no credit when it goes well. It’s amazing. He has become quite the lighting rod, and I think it’s because of his inconsistent play. He’ll have four games in a row – and he has – where he’s been AFC Offensive Player of the Month, and then he’ll have a two-game stretch where it’s like has he ever played quarterback before? And unfortunately in the playoffs, Andy hasn’t been at his best, and neither has anybody else.
“And that’s the thing,” Lapham continued. “A.J. Green hasn’t showed up. Nobody has shown up in those playoff games. It’s been mind-boggling to see how great players who have made plays all season long can just go into a cocoon for the playoffs. Marvin Lewis’ playoff tenure as a head coach is 0-6, and it can be explained in one stat, in my opinion: minus-12. Fourteen giveaways, two takeaways – in the playoffs. You give the ball away like that and make mistakes like that and then can’t take it away on the other side of the ball? It’s coffin nails, man. You’re dead meat – and they have been.”
Dalton, though, has been especially abysmal in the playoffs. We know he doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, but are his struggles more mental or physical?
“I think that Andy is not an elite quarterback,” Lapham said. “He’s kind of middle-of-the-pack. There’s probably 16 teams that would love him and 16 teams that would say, ‘Nah, I’m good.’ I don’t know (why) everybody thinks he’s going to be Tom Brady. He’s not. I don’t think he’s that type of quarterback. But they can win with him. He’s proven that. He’s got 40 regular-season wins. But I think now into his fifth year, there’s (got) to be times during the season where he carries the team instead of the team carrying him. There is a lot of talent around him, and last year they lost a lot of it. In the playoff game in Indianapolis, they were without A.J. Green and Marvin Jones – No. 1 and No. 2 receiver – and Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham, (their) No. 1 and No. 2 tight end. They were a JV team out there offensively. Their weapons weren’t even around. That one was a tough one. That was going into a sword fight with a knife – and it turned out that way.”
Lewis, meanwhile, enters his 13th season in Cincinnati. He is the second-longest tenured head coach in football behind Bill Belichick, who has won four Super Bowls.
Most franchises would have moved on from Lewis by now, so why has he not faced accountability for his failures?
“That’s the interesting dynamic,” Lapham said. “Mike Brown is an 80-year-old, old school owner who believes in continuity and consistency. In the AFC North, Pittsburgh’s had three head coaches since the Vietnam War. Baltimore is very, very stable organizationally that way. And the only one that’s not is Cleveland. They’re the ones that have struggled. So in Mike Brown’s mind, continuity and consistency are very important. And honestly, the decade of the ’90s here – man, it was a lost decade. It was ugly. Marvin came in and took a 2-14 team to eight wins. That’s a tough thing to do. And then four playoff seasons in a row – five out of the last six – there’s only a handful of teams that can make that claim. The difference with the other teams is they won Super Bowls and advanced in the playoffs and the Bengals haven’t. But Mike Brown looks at it like (Lewis has) done a hell of a job. He took a team, turned it around and then has kept it at a high level for a sustained period of time. He feels like he’s done a pretty good job. But yeah, it’s getting frustrating for the fans to be one-and-done every year when they do make the playoffs.”