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Breaking Angles

Breaking Angles – Cardinals and Bengals (1/3/2018)

Bengals Steelers by Jack Kurzenknabe is in the Public Domain

Breaking Angles – Cardinals and Bengals (1/3/2018)

Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Every year the day after the end of week 17 in the NFL is a very interesting one, with Black Monday offering a variety of interesting storylines. Today, however, two things happened to the Cardinals and Bengals that changed my expected outlook on how things will fall out for the 2018 season. Let’s get into it.

The Cardinals are the most attractive Head Coaching destination in the NFL

On Black Monday, Bruce Arians announced his retirement from the NFL. It was a move I was not expecting. I was expecting the news from today, however — Carson Palmer has retired from the NFL after 15 seasons. I was pretty sure Palmer would either retire or be forced out by management, but I thought Arians would remain. Especially given how good his team was a couple years ago. He won Coach of the Year after doing the same with the Colts as the interim Head Coach there.

Recently, though? The Cardinals have struggled mightily. One of the most talented teams in the league, has been saddled with an injury-prone, aging quarterback whose talents have noticeably regressed. When Palmer was on the field the Cardinals were no better than fine, and when he inevitably got hurt they would get much worse without a quality backup ready to take the reins. Drew Stanton is not the future of the franchise. Larry Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer, but he can’t keep bailing out whoever is under center.

With the retiring of Arians and Palmer, the Cardinals avoid the awkward situation of forcing a new head coach to keep an entrenched franchise quarterback. They have one of the most talented running backs in the league coming back from injury in David Johnson, one of the best edge rushers in the league in Chandler Jones, and some fantastic other pieces. Especially if Fitzgerald sticks around and doesn’t retire himself. This offseason will feature one of the most talented veteran quarterback free agent pools in recent history. Whoever is brought in to replace Arians will have the pieces available in the immediate to pick up a free agent quarterback and be immediately competitive. If they get someone like Alex Smith then that’s well on its way to a Super Bowl caliber team. This would allow the GM and the new HC to draft their quarterback of the future, and give them an experienced, top tier veteran to learn from. If I were a potential Head Coach hire, that would excite me greatly.

The Bengals love that also ran status

Look, I like Marvin Lewis. I even think he’s a good coach. He has done fantastic things in setting up the Bengals for greatness, but he’s also proven now 7 separate times that he’s not the guy to take them there. 15 years as a head coach, no playoff victories? That’s not an acceptable stat line. Especially when you have a quarterback who’s proven himself ready to fold in high pressure games. It’s a recipe for disaster.

So when it was announced earlier that the Bengals weren’t willing to give Lewis another year, and that he was planning on moving on from the team, I was excited for the team. Yet here we are, with a two year extension for Lewis. Let’s look at what their above graphic claims as things to tout.

125 Victories

This would be more impressive if it wasn’t spread over 15 seasons. That’s an average of 8 wins per season. Yes a lot of teams are much lower than that, but that’s where you’re expected to be during a rebuild, not consistently.

2009 NFL Coach of the Year

I accept this one, having a Coach of the Year is a very impressive thing. Recently it’s been handed out to the coach who created the biggest turnaround for the team. For instance the aforementioned Bruce Arians, or this year it will almost certainly go to Sean McVay. So it’s a nice award, but you need to go somewhere with it.

4 AFC North Titles

For a team in the AFC North, this is impressive, given how competitive this division is. 4 division titles in 15 years in arguably the hardest division in the league is commendable. The Ravens have also won 4 titles in the same timeframe. The Steelers hold the other 7.

7 Postseason Appearances

Once every other year on average the Bengals get into the playoffs and knocked out in the first round. This is not something to tout. This is what you write when you don’t have anything else positive to write. They were desperate for 5 points here, and on the 4th they realized they really only had 3. So then what did they finish with?

Coaching Tree

THIS?! THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE CELEBRATING?! “The Bengals are the minor leagues for NFL Head Coaches. If you come sit behind Marvin Lewis, you too can take over a different team and see success.” Or not. Let’s look at who those assistants have been.

  • Leslie Frazier – Minnesota Vikings (2010-2013)
    • Career Record as HC: 21-32
    • Playoff Record as HC: 0-1 when they lost to the Packers in a 2012 Wild Card game.
    • Fired by the Vikings, went to the Bucs, his contract was not renewed after one year. Currently the Defensive Coordinator of the Bills, who eked their way into the playoffs on a miracle 4th and 12 touchdown from none other than….Andy Dalton and the Bengals. Well that’s actually an interesting little tidbit
  • Hue Jackson – Oakland Raiders (2011), Cleveland Browns (2012-Present)
    • I really don’t need to chronicle how the Browns have been under Jackson, do I?
    • Career Record as HC: 9-39
    • Playoff Record as HC: N/A because he literally hasn’t made it. Teams coached by Jackson have not finished above 3rd in their division.
  • Jay Gruden – Washington Redskins (2014 – Present)
    • Career Record as HC: 28-35
    • Playoff Record as HC: 0-1 when they lost to the Packers in a 2015 Wild Card game.
    • The less awesome of the Gruden brothers, look for the elder Gruden to have a better season helming the Raiders (if that comes through)
  • Mike Zimmer – Minnesota Vikings (2014 – Present)
    • Career Record as HC: 39-25
    • Playoff Record as HC: 0-1* when they lost to the Seahawks in a 2015 Wild Card game
      • * – This looks pretty clearly like it will change this season.
    • I’ll give this one to the Bengals. Mike Zimmer is awesome and I love what he’s done with the Vikings. Good work minor leagues.
  • Vance Joseph – Denver Broncos (2017 – Present)
    • Career Record as HC: 5-11
    • Playoff Record as HC: N/A
    • We can’t judge Joseph too harshly for his first year in the Broncos organization, so the jury’s out on this one. I will say I didn’t see anything this year that made me excited for the future of the franchise.
    • Combined record: 74-142
    • Combined playoff record: 0-2
    • This is something to celebrate here? You guys have created a coaching tree that has solidly missed? Whoopdy-Doo

Bengals, I like you a lot. You’re not going to win under Marvin Lewis. He’s done incredible work setting you up for the future, and should be commended for doing so. If you want to win a Super Bowl, you’ve officially stopped yourself from doing so until at least the 2020 season. In the meantime you will be subjecting some of the best players in the league to more one-and-done from the playoffs, if they make it at all.

Ned is an Actor and award-winning Content Creator based out of Brooklyn, New York. Currently you can hear him as a voice actor on the podcast Encounter Party!, and as the host of the podcast At the Table: A Play Reading Series. Originally from Portland, Maine, Ned is an avid follower of all things New England, be it sports teams, breweries, seafood, or Cumby's. He spends most of his free time playing board games, listening to podcasts, and gawking at dogs on the street. You can learn more on his website,

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