The Cincinnati Bengals have won 10+ games four years in a row and have made the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons. Unfortunately for them, they’re 0-6 in the playoffs during that stretch and haven’t won a playoff game since 1990.
Cincinnati will once again enter the season with a deep, talented roster, but with each passing year, the window of opportunity closes. Do the Bengals feel their clock ticking?
“I don’t know if we feel time ticking, but we’ve always felt a sense of urgency,” Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “That’s just part of being a good football team. Any good football team feels a sense of urgency, and we feel that. We were disappointed by the events of last year, but we’re not dwelling on it and we’re not hanging our head and we’re not saying what could have been? We’re looking forward to this year and we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us. It’s not easy to get back to the playoffs and we recognize that. So we’ve got a long road before we can exorcise those demons. We’re worried about the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens and such.”
Andy Dalton presided over four consecutive playoff losses from 2011 to 2014, combining for one touchdown and six interceptions. He greatly improved his play in 2015 before suffering a freak injury in a 33-20 loss to the Steelers last December. Dalton broke his thumb while tackling defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who had just picked him off.
Ultimately, when will Dalton make the transition from good to great?
“Well, in our opinion before the injury last year, he had made that switch,” Tobin said. “He was playing great, he was leading our team, taking the necessary steps to be the face of what we do, and I think everybody had rallied around him. The injury really hurt us. We’re fortunate enough to have a guy with a lot of moxie to put in there in AJ McCarron, but he was at that level, in my opinion, last year prior to that injury. So I think he needs to build on where he was at that point. I think he can. I don’t think he’s reached his ceiling. As well as he’s played, I don’t think he’s reached his ceiling, nor do I think he feels that way. He’s a competitive guy, always wants to learn, always wants to grow. So we’re very happy to have him. He’s obviously the most important part of our team. The quarterback is always the most important part of every team. When you got one, you want to hang on to him. You want to go with him, and he’s grown. He doesn’t know what it’s like not to go to the playoffs. So he’s a winner, and those are the things that really matter to us. I think some of the technical things he’s grown with over the years – his footwork, his progression, his down-field accuracy, those things – he continues to improve on. So we’re very fortunate to have him and happy that he’s here.”
Dalton unfortunately enters the season without two of his top targets from last season: Mohamed Sanu, who signed with the Falcons, and Marvin Jones, who signed with the Lions. That duo combined for 98 catches, 1,210 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Were the Bengals, who have had a reputation for being a little stingy over the years, simply looking to save money in letting those guys walk?
“No, we weren’t trying to save some money,” said Tobin, who has been with the Bengals since 1999. “I won’t get into the details of what the offers were and whether they were more or less than some of the opportunities put in there, but all you got to do is do a little research on cash and cap spending and see where we sit in the league and I think that question probably wouldn’t be asked. We’re actually one of the highest-spending teams in the league. I know the narrative, and the narrative is an old narrative. I don’t agree with the narrative, but I think we deal in the realities, and the realities are that we pay our players. We pay our players more than we go out and shop for others. Our cap spending is pretty easy to look at and analyze and so we’re proud of the way that we play. I view us in running a business the right way, but I view us (as) certainly rewarding players who have earned it.”